#38 Mercer Softball 2015 Preview

Mercer Bears

Overall Rank: #38
Conference Rank: #1 Southern Conference
#38 Mercer Softball 2015 Preview
Mercer Team Page


The Bears were one game away from making the NCAA Tournament last season, falling just short in the Atlantic Sun Championship game, losing a 1-0 heartbreaker to Stetson. However, this is a new season for Mercer, in a couple ways. The biggest way, however, is the Bears have moved from the Atlantic Sun to the Southern Conference.

2014: 39-19, 18-8 (Atlantic Sun)
2014 Postseason: None
Coach: James DeFeo

Field Players:
Mercer brings back three of its top four hitters from last season, as well as its leading power hitter. Kaylynn Sloat finished second on the team with a .333 average, a team-leading 14 doubles, nine home runs and 32 RBI. Kaytlin Haney hit .326, but had seven home runs and a team-high 55 RBI. Caroline Taylor led the team with 14 homers and was second with 48 RBI. The squad will have to replace Krista Kennedy, who hit 10 home runs. Four of the six freshmen are either infielders or outfielders, so it'll be interesting to see if the Bears use them as replacements for departed players.

The top two starters returning are both sophomores, including Kirsten Stevens, who became the team's ace after starting 26 of the 32 games she appeared in. She put up a 15-6 record, 2.21 ERA and struck out 101 hitters. Anna O'Neill also returns for her sophomore campaign, a year after starting 11 of her 25 appearances. She had all three saves the Bears had last season.

Who to Watch:
Two of the six sophomores, Stevens and Taylor. Both players had big freshmen seasons, but can they continue improving? Will pitchers be able to keep Taylor's power at a minimum? Stevens had an impressive debut, but the Bears will look for her to take over being the true ace after sharing the mound with three others last year.

Final Projection:
A year after almost making the tournament, the Bears look to do it in their inaugural Southern Conference season. A lot of it will depend on a couple things. How will they adjust to the new conference and vice versa? The team is young, as 12 of the 19 team members are freshmen or sophomores. Will they be able to take the lead and be vital for the squad's success?  The talent is there and the experience is too, as four of the sophomores saw extensive playing time.  The squad will be tested early, facing Auburn twice at the Auburn Invitational, as well as Winthrop in that tournament. Other big games include matchups with Florida and Kansas, both of which are at the Florida Invite.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Kaytlin Haney, IF/OF, 181
Hits: Kaytlin Haney, IF/OF, 59
Home Runs: Caroline Taylor, IF, 14
RBIs: Kaytlin Haney, IF/OF, 55
Runs: Kaylynn Sloat, 3B/C, 40
Stolen Bases: Taylor Miller, OF, 12

Wins: Kirsten Stevens, P, 15
Innings Pitched: Kirsten Stevens, P, 158.2
Strikeouts: Kirsten Stevens, P, 101
Complete Games: Kirsten Stevens, P, 14


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