MACON, GA. -- Jared Mihalik belted a three-run first inning home run and Furman built a five-run lead and held on to beat Mercer, 7-6, in the first game of a Southern Conference Saturday baseball doubleheader at Ortho Georgia Park.
The win earned Furman (16-16, 2-4 SoCon) the series victory over Mercer (26-8, 6-3 SoCon), which entered the weekend riding a six-game winning streak and atop the league standings.
The Bears avoided the twinbill and series sweep by claiming Sunday's second contest, 3-2, despite Mihalik's fourth home run in consecutive games, which tied a Furman record set by Chris Ohmstede in 2015.
Mihalik, a freshman designated hitter/outfielder, third baseman from Johns Creek, Ga., who hit the first home run of his Paladin career in Wednesday's 13-12 win over Georgia State and homered in Friday's 12-9 victory over Mercer, gave Furman an early 3-0 lead in Sunday's first game when he deposited a Chase Burks pitch over the left field fence in the first inning.
Mercer tallied a pair of runs in the second, and it remained 3-2 until the seventh when a Bear fielding error helped set the stage for a four-run Paladin frame. A Ben Anderson RBI double scored Bret Huebner to put the Paladins up 4-2, and Jason Costa followed by hammering a Burks offering over the right field fenced to stretch the advantage to 6-2. Jake Crawford and Brandon Elmy combined for the final run with Crawford doubling and Elmy driving him home with a single thru the right side for a 7-2 lead.
Heath Hawkins took over for Paladin freshman starting pitcher Matt Lazzaro to begin the seventh, worked a pair of scoreless innings, and got the first out in the ninth before running into trouble. After walking a pair of batters, he was relieved by Tyler Kimbrell, who issued walks to the next two batters to force in a run. Kimbrell was pulled on a two-ball, no-strike count for Jake Crawford, the Paladins' starting third baseman. Trey Truitt greeted Crawford with an infield single to make it 7-4, and Jackson Ware cut the Paladins' lead to 7-5 with a ground out that plated RJ Yeager. JT Thomas pulled the Bears to within a run by scoring on a wild pitch, but Crawford ended the game by getting Le Bassett on a foul pop.
Lazzaro (3-4) was effective in earning the victory, allowing two runs on seven hits over six innings. He walked one and struck out three.
The loss was charged to Burks (4-2), who worked 6 1/3 innings, allowing five runs on six hits and a pair of walks. He struck out 10. The Mercer right-hander gave up a leadoff single to Anderson to start the game and walk to Costa before Mihalik cranked his three-run long ball well over the left field wall.
The top of Furman's lineup did the bulk of the damage offensively with Anderson, Costa, and Mihalik all registering two hits and accounting for six of the seven RBI and five of the Paladins' runs. Furman finished with nine hits.
Mercer also had nine hits.
Crawford's save was his first of the season and 10th of his career.
In Sunday's second game Mihalik followed a leadoff single by Ben Anderson with his third home run of the series, a two-run shot to left field to stake the Paladins to a 2-0 first inning lead.
Mercer tied it at 2-2 with a run in the first and second, but after that Paladin starting pitcher Grant Schuermann settled in and allowed the Eagles just two hits over the next six innings while striking out five.
Furman, meanwhile, struggled to get anything going offensively against Mercer reliever Robert Broom, the losing pitcher in Friday night's 12-9 Paladin victory. Broom entered the game in the fifth with two on two outs and promptly hit Jake Crawford to load the bases before getting Brandon Elmy on a infield pop up to end the threat.
Broom (7-1), the winner pitcher went on to notch six strikeouts over the final 4 1/3 innings, allowing just one hit, an infield single to Logan Taplett in the ninth.
Mercer won the game when RJ Yeager led off the bottom of the ninth by belting the third pitch he saw from Schuermann's replacement, Jordan Beatson (1-1), to left field and out of the ballpark.
Crawford had two of Furman's seven hits, and Mercer also finished with seven hits.
The Paladins return to action on Tuesday at home against Winthrop in a 6:00 p.m. game.
Hunter Reid, Furman Sports Information