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Analyzing Florida State Seminoles NCAA Baseball Regional Opponents: Mercer Bears

Mercer, the only team that FSU is guaranteed to play in the Tallahassee Regional, could present a powerful problem for the Seminoles.

FSU will open the Tallahassee Regional on Friday against the #4 seeded Mercer Bears (35-21, 16-7 SoCon). Here's a look at what the Bears do well -- and not as well -- as well as what challenges they may pose to the Seminoles.

#4 Seed - Mercer Bears (35-21, 16-7 SoCon)

After winning the SoCon regular-season title by 2.5 games, Mercer ran through the SoCon Tournament, winning all four games they played over The Citadel (twice), VMI, and Samford, with three of the four wins by five or more runs. The Bears are undoubtedly one of the stronger 4 seeds but benefited somewhat from the weak Southern Conference where the teams had an average ERA over 5.50 and an OPSa of .810, which makes Mercer's gaudy offensive numbers much more palatable. For reference the SEC/ACC had a league average ERA of ~3.80 and .690 on-base plus slugging against.

Offense

Mercer's team batting average of .288 (tied for 67th in the nation) is nothing to write home about and only two of their regular contributors have averages above .300 but there is one thing that the Bears do very well and it's a potential hazard for the Seminoles. On the season, Mercer batters have hit an astounding 69 home runs (3rd in NCAA) and over 60 games, that gives them 1.23 home runs per game, which is good for 2nd in the nation. Equally astonishing as the number of home-runs that they hit is the number of free outs they hand they other team, the Bears have 77 sacrifice bunts this season; only two other teams in the nation have more. The amount of small ball they play given their capability to hit the ball is remarkable and something opponents can take advantage of.

Kyle Lewis, starting center fielder for the Bears and 2015 SoCon Player of the Year leads the team in many offensive categories including home runs (17, T-6 in NCAA), batting average (.373, T-32 in NCAA), runs batted in (56), and slugging percentage (.691, 6th in NCAA). Devin Bonin, the starting second baseman for the Bears, is also a home run threat with 10 home runs on the season.

MERCER BEARS
2015 SEASON STATISTICS - PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
TEAM POS. BAT GP GS PA 2B 3B HR SB SBA SB % K% BB% AVG OBP SLG OPS BABIP IsoP
Matt Meeder # SS R 56 55 261 11 2 2 2 5 40.0% 12.6% 17.6% 0.295 0.466 0.405 0.871 0.348 0.111
Devin Bonin 2B L 56 56 263 8 1 10 5 7 71.4% 14.4% 8.7% 0.290 0.364 0.471 0.835 0.309 0.181
Kyle Lewis % * CF R 52 51 244 18 0 17 3 8 37.5% 16.0% 7.4% 0.373 0.428 0.691 1.119 0.390 0.318
Danny Edgeworth 3B L 56 56 249 12 1 6 5 6 83.3% 17.3% 8.8% 0.296 0.405 0.453 0.858 0.348 0.158
Jackson Ware $ LF R 51 40 189 10 0 5 3 4 75.0% 12.7% 11.6% 0.325 0.433 0.490 0.923 0.361 0.166
Nate Moorhouse DH L 54 53 229 15 1 4 3 3 100.0% 19.2% 10.5% 0.274 0.397 0.436 0.833 0.338 0.162
Howard Joe 1B R 56 56 248 11 1 6 0 2 0.0% 16.9% 7.7% 0.273 0.335 0.414 0.748 0.312 0.141
Charlie Madden C R 56 55 235 13 1 9 1 1 100.0% 20.4% 11.1% 0.258 0.350 0.474 0.824 0.297 0.216
Trey Truitt $ RF R 54 51 207 11 2 8 4 7 57.1% 28.0% 12.6% 0.287 0.384 0.511 0.896 0.385 0.224
TOTALS 491 473 2125 109 9 67 26 43 60.5% 17.4% 10.6% 0.297 0.396 0.484 0.880 0.341 0.188
% - Conf. Player of the Year *- 1st Team All Conf. # - 2nd Team All Conf. $ -All Conf. Freshmen

Pitching

Eric Nyquist, the ace for the Bears, will start Friday against FSU and he brings with him the most wins and 3rd-best ERA on the team (best among regular starters) with a 9-2 record and a 3.22 ERA. Nyquist holds opponents to a .230 batting average and has allowed just 4 home runs in 86.2 innings this season. In his most recent outing, Nyquist threw a 6-hit shutout in Mercer's 5-0 win over Samford in the SoCon Championship.

The Bears also have a pair of dangerous arms in the bullpen. In 59.2 innings of relief work this year, Morgan Pittman has a 2.56 ERA and has struck out nearly one batter per inning with 59 strikeouts on the season. Pittman also avoids extra-base hits incredibly well as 49 of the 57 hits he has allowed this season are singles. Dimitri Kourtis, another Mercer reliever, has the best ERA on the team at 2.20 through his 28.2 innings of work. Kourtis holds opponents to a .158 batting average and strikes out more than one batter per inning on average. Should the Seminoles face Mercer more than once, their starting pitchers after Nyquist are much easier to handle. DJ Johnson has a 6.58 ERA and Grant Papelian is not much better at 4.90.

MERCER BEARS
2015 SEASON STATISTICS - PITCHERS OF NOTE WITH SEASON TOTALS IN BOLD
PLAYER THROW G GS IP ERA WHIP H/9 K/9 BB/9 K:BB FIP BABIP BAA OPSa
Eric Nyquist * RHP 18 15 86.7 3.22 1.17 7.58 7.17 2.91 2.46 3.57 0.278 0.230 0.602
Grant Papelian LHP 20 12 68.0 4.90 1.72 12.18 4.37 3.31 1.32 5.66 0.340 0.327 0.869
Morgan Pittman # LHP 27 0 59.7 2.56 1.31 8.60 8.90 3.17 2.81 3.52 0.319 0.250 0.645
DJ Johnson RHP 23 8 52.0 6.58 1.58 10.73 9.00 3.46 2.60 4.94 0.346 0.291 0.835
Ryan Askew RHP 17 11 49.3 6.75 1.76 12.59 5.66 3.28 1.72 4.88 0.370 0.332 0.848
TOTALS 233 56 494.0 4.55 1.44 10.04 7.31 2.90 2.52 4.32 0.328 0.282 0.749
% - Conf. Pitcher of the Year *- 1st Team All Conf. # - 2nd Team All Conf. $ -All Conf. Freshmen

Defense and Baserunning

The Mercer Bears enter the Tallahassee Regional with a fielding percentage of .974, the best of all four teams. Kyle Lewis, the aforementioned slugger, has a perfect 1.000% fielding percentage as he has 139 putouts and 1 assist . Charlie Madden, the everyday catcher for the Bears, has the second best fielding percentage on the team (.992%) with 3 errors in 381 opportunities. At the other end of the spectrum, Matt Meeder, the starting Mercer shortstop, has one of the lowest fielding percentages of any starting player in this regional at .923% with 20 errors committed, tied for the most of any player competing in this regional.

With regard to baserunning, Mercer is a very run-of-the-mill team, successfully stealing 27 bases in 44 attempts this season (61.4% success rate). No single player has attempted more than 8 steals or stolen more than 5 successfully. However, the Bears are not as adept at stopping opponents from stealing as they have allowed 63 stolen bases in 85 attempts this season (74.1%), something that FSU can use to its advantage.

Outlook

FSU will be favored in their opening matchup against Mercer. Eric Nyquist and Kyle Lewis are the two potential "x-factors" for the Bears who could take the game over and create deja-vu from last season for Florida State fans but if the Seminoles continue at the breakneck pace that they competed at throughout the ACC Championship, the 'Noles should be able to take care of business against Mercer.