SUNDAY, MARCH 23, 2014
Jacksonville Foiled By Late Mercer Rally
Justin Russell (Photo by Michael Clements)
Justin Russell (Photo by Michael Clements)
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville received a strong eight innings on the mound from Justin Russell (Jacksonville, Fla.) but was unable to close it out as the Dolphins fell to mercer 6-3 after a ninth inning rally by the Bears.

Russell has been dominate on Sunday’s all season and today was not difference at the righty threw 100 pitches over eight innings allowing two runs on seven hits with six strikeouts.

The Dolphins gave Russell an early 2-0 lead and allowed him to stay in a grove behind a solid defense particular that of Scott Schaub (Jacksonville, Fla.) at third.

“The defense played well behind me and Schaub made three unbelievable plays at third base that help my confidence build throughout the game,” said Russell on the play of the senior infielder.

Jacksonville (5-16; 1-5 A-Sun) continued its early inning success scoring in the first inning for the seventh time in the last eight games on Sunday. Sophomore Parker Perez (Edgewater, Fla.) set the table by leading off the first with a double down the left field line. After moving to third on one of the Dolphins four sacrifice hits, he came into score on a sacrifice fly by Angelo Amendolare (Edgewater, Fla.).

The Dolphins would add another run in the second on a RBI ground out by Garret Ruckel (Jacksonville, Fla.) that scored Schaub to extend the lead to 2-0.

Mercer (19-6; 5-1 A-Sun) got a run back in the top of the third. A two-out double, followed by a RBI single from Nick Backlund would cut the Dolphins lead in half.

The score would stay there until Perez got things going again for Jacksonville in the fifth.

“Parker hit well today and was a spark plug in that leadoff position,” Russell said. “He battled all day with some great at bats that set us up with some scoring opportunities.”

Hitting in the leadoff spot for the first time this season, Perez went 3-for-5 with a double and a triple. His triple came in the fifth as be battled off a 3-2 count in an eight pitch at bat by lining a triple down the right field line. Sophomore Michael Babb (Jacksonville, Fla.) brought him home one batter later with his second sac bunt of the game to give the Dolphins a 3-1 advantage.

The lead would hold there until Russell surrendered a double to lead off the ninth, for the first leadoff base runner by the Bears all afternoon. The Dolphins would go to the bull pen, but three straight singles tied the game for Mercer and left two men on with still no outs in the inning. Jacksonville made another pitching change following a sac bunt, but Mercer continued to stay hot as pinch hitter Howard Joe hit a three run home run over the left field wall that proved to be the difference.

Along with the three hits by Perez, Dylan Dillard (Kissimmee, Fla.) and Nate Ricci (Madison, Wis.) also singled for Jacksonville. Dillard is now hitting a team best .417 in A-Sun play this season.

“We just have to look within ourselves and find it,” added Russell. “It’s right here in the heart and all we have to do is just figure it out. We have the team to do it.”

The Dolphins return home on Tuesday at 6:30 pm against Florida A&M.