"Our young kids know that we've played a very tough schedule and it's made us better," Shope said.
Winning pitcher Michael Bottoms allowed three hits and three walks and struck out seven batters in five innings. Reliever John Wickliffe had two strikeouts in two innings.
Gross took the loss after allowing six unearned runs in 4 2/3 innings. Josh Carey allowed Mercer's other run.
Garrard County 18, Harrodsburg 14 - At Lancaster, the host Golden Lions jumped out to a seven-run lead in the first inning and never trailed.
Garrard scored seven runs in the first, was held scoreless in the second, but added 11 more runs over the next three innings against the Pioneers (2-7).
Freeman Edwards took the loss for Harrodsburg, giving up three hits, three walks and hitting one batter in 1/3 of an inning. He was credited with all seven first-inning runs. Adam Gray, Andy McCrystal and Josh Anderson also pitched for the Pioneers.
Garrard had 17 hits and four errors.
Harrodsburg had 14 hits, including home runs from Josh Anderson, Mariqus Brown and Seth Leeds. Leeds and Edwards each finished with three RBIs, while Andy McCrystal and Brown each knocked in two.
"The kids are playing hard, and we're just hoping our pitching will catch up with our hitting," Harrodsburg coach Brent Drury said.
Franklin County 8, Danville 3 - At Frankfort, Danville (9-5) couldn't keep pace with Franklin (11-7) at the plate as the Admirals were outhit 14-5 in their fourth straight loss.
Back-to-back four-run innings gave Franklin all the offense it would need, while the Admirals couldn't get much offense going.
"We played pretty good today; they just outhit us," Danville coach Paul Morse said. "We were facing their No. 1 pitcher; he was throwing it 84 to 86 (mph) and mixed it up. We've faced a lot of good pitching lately which is going to help us down the road."
Jeremy Potts had three of Danville's five hits, while Deangleo Durham's double was its only extra-base hit.
Durham took the loss, allowing seven runs (six earned) on 11 hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings. Potts gave up one run on three hits and a walk in 1 2/3 relief innings.
Danville hosts Lexington Christian in an All "A" Classic sectional game Thursday, with the winner advancing to next week's statewide tournament.