Mercer releases 2009 slate

FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE

Courtesy of Mercer Media Relations

Courtesy of Mercer Media Relations

MACON, Ga. – The Mercer baseball team announced its 2009 spring schedule on Friday, featuring matchups with schools from the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Southeastern Conference, including eight games against teams that qualified for the 2008 NCAA Baseball Championship.

“We have another tough schedule in 2009,” Mercer head coach Craig Gibson said. “We face a number of schools that reached the postseason a year ago in addition to non-conference foes from the SEC and ACC. As always, the A-Sun schedule will be very competitive. We are looking forward to opening in February.”

The 2009 schedule features 52 games, including 25 at Mercer’s Claude Smith Field. The Bears continue a pair of long-standing rivalries with Atlanta-based opponents Georgia State and Georgia Tech, clashing with each team twice throughout the season. The Yellow Jackets were one of six ACC teams that qualified for the NCAA Championship last season, finishing second in the Athens Regional to eventual national runner-up, Georgia.

The Bears face three other 2008 NCAA Championship qualifiers in 2009, including fellow A-Sun foe, Lipscomb. The Bisons shocked nationally seeded Georgia in the first game of the Athens Regional in their first trip to an NCAA Regional. The Bears commence the conference slate by hosting a three-game series with the defending A-Sun Champions, which begins on March 6.

A single game against Ole Miss on Feb. 21 and a double-dip with Bethune-Cookman on March 3 and March 4 round out last year’s postseason participants on Mercer’s schedule. The SEC’s Rebels and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Champion Wildcats each competed in the Coral Gables Regional. The Rebels eliminated the Wildcats on their way to a second-place finish at the regional, behind the No. 1 national seed, Miami. Mercer’s meeting with Ole Miss marks the first in program history.

Including the matchup with Ole Miss, Mercer plays six games against programs the Bears have never faced on the diamond. Beginning the season at the South Alabama Coca-Cola Classic in Mobile, Ala., the Bears face Liberty for the first time in program history on Feb. 22, a day after clashing with the Rebels. Just five days later, Mercer hosts Bryant for a four-game set starting Feb. 27, meeting the Bulldogs for the first time as well.

Besides facing a host of new opponents early in the season, the Bears must endure a taxing 10-game road swing that begins on March 10 and concludes on March 24, the longest number of consecutive road games the Bears have had endured since 2005. The trip includes stops in Atlanta and Savannah, Ga. serving as bookends to an eight-game journey through the Carolinas. Included in the trip is a visit to The Citadel, which rejuvenates a series that has been dormant since 1983.

In the A-Sun slate, the Bears drew the good fortune of facing 2008’s top three finishers at home in 2009. In addition to hosting Lipscomb, who finished third during the A-Sun’s regular season, Mercer hosts regular season champion Florida Gulf Coast (38-15, 25-8 A-Sun in ’08) and Kennesaw State (30-26, 21-12 A-Sun in ’08), which finished the regular season four games behind the Eagles and two in front of the Bisons for second. The Eagles visit Macon for three games on April 3-5, while the Owls make the trip down I-75 for three games in two days on April 17-18. The teams were not eligible to compete in the last year’s A-Sun Championship, as they are in the midst of an NCAA Reclassifying Period.

The season gets underway on Feb. 20 when the Bears face South Alabama in the first game of the 2009 South Alabama Coca-Cola Classic in Mobile, Ala. The Bears play in front of the Mercer faithful for the first time on Feb. 25 against Georgia State.