Wrapping up the fall season, head coach Mike Raynor can rest easy. Not that Raynor really ever stops thinking about softball and his team, but at least for the holidays, he’ll feel good about the upcoming season.
In his fourth year at the helm of the Bears, Raynor has taken one of the worst teams in Division I softball and has turned them into contenders. While much of the progress over the past few seasons was made on defense, the Bears seemed to focus a bit more at the plate this fall.
Playing a short seven game season stretching from mid-October to November, Mercer matched up with the likes of Georgia as well as several NAIA and JUCO teams.
With the graduation of ace pitcher Lacey Richardson, Raynor’s focus this short season was on replacing his No. 2 pitcher and on getting more big hits.
As could be expected, Mercer struggled against a powerful Georgia team, but looked sharper against their other opponents. Against Darton College, Mercer won the double header 2-0 and 8-2 off of fantastic pitching performances from Jenni Holtz and Kari Chambers.
Most recently, Mercer would record victories over Georgia Perimeter College (3-0) and Rinehardt College (5-0) as the Bears saw sophomores Sara Stukes and Stephanie Canara hit long balls against Perimeter and Rinehardt respectively.
“With our team’s variety of talent, we were able to complete the fall season a successful note,” offered senior outfielder Holly Oglesbee.
She added, “We plan to use the same mental and physical ability we ended the fall season with to build upon for the spring. My hope is that we can surpass last year’s 40 win total and win a conference championship. I believe wholeheartedly we are capable of winning the championship and competing in the NCAA tournament.”
For a team with a .975 fielding percentage, 18 returning players, and one of the best returning pitchers in the nation in Jenni Holtz, Raynor could see his team capture an A-Sun title and make it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in the program's history.
With a 1-2 pitching punch of Holtz and Kari Chambers set, he’ll need leadership from the team’s three seniors (Oglesbee, Stacey Condra, and Brandy Keeter) in order to make a run at the NCAA tournament.
Mercer opens their spring season Feb. 12th against Bowling Green and Southern Mississippi in the Florida State University Tournament in Tallahassee, Florida.