It wasn't the start that Lincoln coach Danny Masten wanted.
"Mercer is a great hitting team and they scattered the ball all over the place early in the game," the Lincoln coach said. "After a shaky start, I thought Jarid threw the best four innings that he has thrown all year. He began to locate his pitches and started to challenge the hitters. It just started two innings too late."
The Titans scored three times in the first inning and never looked back. Lead-off man Evan Ethington walked and immediately stole second. He advanced to third on a perfectly placed bunt by Ethan Ashford that just eluded Rogers and scored when Aaron Bee, who hit .661 last week, singled sharply into right field. Matthew Robertson's sacrifice fly plated one run and Chris Lewis' single scored Bee for a 3-0 lead.
Mercer added a run in the second when Evan Heath walked and scored on Ethington's double.
"We are starting to come around offensively," Chitwood said. "Last week was a big week for us. We finally got to play, beat a good Male team and started to gather some momentum. We're becoming more confident at the plate. Two weeks ago we were hitting .150 as a team, and that has increased to around .300 lately. The weather has been a little warmer and so have our bats."
A needed arm
With a depleted pitching staff after the weekend tournament, Claunch gave the Titans a needed arm.
"He did a nice job," Masten said. "He mixed his pitches and kept us off balance all day. Every ball we hit was right at them, and they were solid on defense. I don't know how many times we nearly hit into double plays today."
Lincoln's first threat came in the third when, with two outs, Ryan Young singled and went to third on an error on a Noah Keeton ground ball. However, Devon Denson, who hit three home runs last week against Burgin, hit a high pop-up that Claunch caught to end the threat.
"That was huge," Masten added. "He had been swinging a hot bat, and a gapper would have been nice there. It would have made things a little more interesting."
Lincoln scored its only run in the fourth when Rogers, who had two of Lincoln's six hits, singled in Eric King to trim the lead to 4-1.
Mercer added single runs in the fifth and seventh innings to put the game away.
Chitwood is pleased with the progress his team is making.
"We're getting better every day," the Mercer coach said. "We have young players in key spots that are improving. That's the exciting part. We are getting outstanding efforts on the mound. That's why the effort Thad gave us is so important. He just adds another arm to the mix. We are trying to get ready for tournament play and every day from here on out is crucial."
Thad Claunch, Jonathan Carter (7) and Evan Ethington; Jarid Rogers, Cody Hensley (6) and Trey Edwards. W-Claunch. L-Rogers. 2B-Ethington (MC).Mercer3100101-5-11-2Lincoln0001000-1-6-2