STORY BY: BLAKE SUTHERLAND STAFF WRITER
STORY EDITED BY SPORTS EDITOR CHRIS POUNDS
Taking over a new team can be seen as a process where pressure can come when the expectations are to win right away, and the pressure is heightened when that team is coming off of back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, even after losing half of their starters.
Yet under the new leadership of first time head coach, Jeff Mercer, the Wright State baseball team are not feeling pressure and is looking to capitalize on the players they have.
“It’s going to be an interesting season,” Coach Mercer confirmed, a month following his hiring. “We lost a lot of guys to the draft and we’re young but talented.”
Mercer is taking over the head coaching job from Greg Lovelady, who left the Wright State job to take over at the University of Central Florida.
Mercer was an accomplished infielder at Wright State as a two-time All Horizon League player in 2008 and 2009 following his transfer from the University of Dayton. Following his graduation in 2009 he spent time as an assistant at the Universities of Michigan, Western Kentucky and Ohio Northern before finding his way back to Wright State as an assistant in 2014.
Now that he is in his first stint as a head coach, and filling the shoes of one of the most successful coach in the school’s program, in Lovelady, In his short stint as head coach, Lovelady took the Raiders to two NCAA tournament appearances, where they went 4-4 compared to their previous 1-8 record. Yet, Mercer isn’t looking to do things switch things up too much than what was previously in place.
“My focus is keeping the same core principles,” Mercer said. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
One of those key young pieces that will be important to Mercer’s plan as a coach is sophomore outfielder JD Orr.
Orr, who batted .346 and was named to the Horizon League freshman team last season, has full confidence that Mercer is the coach who can get the job done.
“I was excited,” Orr said. “I also knew that he had a lot more on his plate than he used to but I knew that he could handle the job and I knew that he was going to be a great head coach and get great assistants.”
Despite feeling confident in his coach and Mercer acknowledging that the team has lost a lot to the draft on top of graduation, including six starters from last year. Orr still believes that this team that can advance even further than last year’s regional finish.
“We lost a lot obviously but it’s been proven we’ve been able to bring people in that have been able to take their roles and also exceed their expectations and I feel like the class we brought in and their ability to come and play at a high level and we won’t miss a beat doing it.”
Mercer, Orr and the Raiders open up their season on the road in South Carolina, when they’ll take on the Clemson Tigers, Friday, Feb 17 at 4 p.m.
WSU Baseball Last Season