Mercado's Gem Lifts Whit Baseball to Win
News Release Date:
Sunday, March 7
WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- One day after letting a five-run, ninth-inning lead slip away, Whitman College bounced back behind the strong right shoulder of Blaine Mercado to pin a 2-1 Northwest Conference defeat on Puget Sound Sunday afternoon at Borleske Stadium.
Both brilliant and steadfast, Mercado tossed a three-hit, nine-inning gem against a Logger team that outscored Whitman 29-16 in two games on Saturday.
A man of many talents, Mercado also drove home Whitman's first run on Sunday to help the undermanned Missionaries claim their first triumph of the season and give first-year head coach Jared Holowaty his first victory in a Whitman uniform.
Whitman, off a 1-2 start in the NWC, lost all 11 of its early non-conference games, although four of those setbacks came by four or fewer runs. Sunday's loss leaves Puget Sound at 2-1 in conference and 6-5 on the season.
After Mercado held Puget Sound hitless through its first six at-bats, Whitman broke through for two runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Leading off, Erik Korsmo cracked a line-shot single to centerfield and scooted all the way to third base when the ball found an early-season divot and skipped past the fielder.
Mercado followed with an RBI ground-out to shortstop to put Whitman on the scoreboard.
Jason Sease drilled the next pitch up the middle for a single, moved around to third base on a Joe Rodhouse hit-and-run single, and scored when Mitch Hannoosh reached for a pitch in his eyes to push a suicide squeeze bunt down the first base line.
With a two-run lead, Mercado gave up his first hit in the top of seventh -- Chaz Kramer's two-out double down the left-field line. Kramer was left stranded when the next hitter rapped a soft liner to second baseman Patrick Stauffer.
After Whitman stranded two runners of its own in the bottom of the seventh, Puget Sound threatened again in the eighth. Matt Cox drove a one-out double into the left-center gap and Mark Rockey was issued an intentional pass, but Will Mentor grounded into a force at second and Mercado ended the inning with a called third strike.
In the top of the ninth, Puget Sound's Doug Cox added to the drama by grounding a ball down the third-base line for a lead-off double. Kramer lined a sacrifice fly to left, sending Cox to third.
Jason Powell drew a full-count walk and gave way to pinch-runner Nick Cherniske, who was promptly caught leaning by Mercado. Rodhouse, playing first base, took the pick-off throw and nailed Cherniske at second as Cox trotted home to make it a 2-1 game.
With the Loggers down to their final out, Mercado enticed Andrew Grady into a game-ending groundball to second base that Stauffer handled to finish an error-free defensive effort by the Missionaries.
Mercado fanned four and walked six, although Rockey was given two intentional passes a day after he knocked three homers over the Borleske fences.
Jarvis Nahara started on the mound for Puget Sound and went five innings, giving up four hits and surviving two Logger fielding errors in the second inning. Whitman had the bases loaded in that inning when Nahara picked a runner off first base for the third out.
Whitman, which left seven runners on based over the first four innings, finished with nine hits. Brian Kitamura, Eric Tolleson and Rodhouse finished with two hits each.
While the Loggers managed just three hits, Rockey nearly put the visitors on the scoreboard in first inning when he swatted a towering flyball to the 400-foot sign in center. But Sease, playing center for the Missionaries, tracked the ball to the fence to make a leaping grab.
Whitman heads to Portland, Ore., next weekend for a three-game NWC series against Lewis & Clark.
Puget Sound hosts Whitworth next weekend in Tacoma.
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CONTACT: Dave Holden
Sports Information Director
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.
509 527-5902; email@example.com