Wright State offense in high gear entering Horizon League tourney

Wright State baseball coach Jeff Mercer knows his players won’t always be happy with him, and he’s OK with that.

Like his predecessors in the program, Mercer believes in stockpiling as many good hitters as possible. And though having a loaded roster means some Raiders aren’t getting as many at-bats as they’d like, the top teams are usually the ones where the starters are being pushed.

»RELATED: Nine Raiders honored by Horizon League

»RELATED: Snyder develops into most prolific power hitter in WSU history

»RELATED: Raiders blank NKU on wet night at Fifth Third Field

»RELATED: WSU women’s track fourth at Horizon League championships

“What makes us successful, first and foremost, is that we’ve got 13 or 14 guys who can really hit,” Mercer said. “We’ve found when you’ve got a lot of competition, it’s really going to drive the success of the group. While in the moment it can be frustrating for the individual, it also brings out the best in that player.”

The Raiders (36-15), who are hosting the Horizon League tourney this week, easily lead the conference in runs at 7.75 per game, a pace that would put them second in school history behind the 8.05 average of the 2010 team.

But Mercer is no Earl Weaver, the Hall of Fame manager who had a love affair with the three-run homer. The Raiders rely on a speedy lineup stocked with quality hitters, most of whom are left-handed. That gives them an edge since most pitchers are right-handed.

They’re first in the conference with a .296 team average and 100 steals (in 116 attempts). But their 39 homers are 21 fewer than league-leader Northern Kentucky.

“I’m not big on home runs or bust,” said Mercer, a former Raiders star who is in his second year as coach. “We want guys with high on-base percentages, guys who will walk and guys who will hit the ball in the gaps and run.

“Our players have had a lot of college at-bats. And we’re very left-handed and can really get down the line. You just don’t have time to bobble a ball. You can’t double-clutch because we run so well and will beat it out. And we steal so many bases that it’s really difficult for pitchers to get settled.”

The Raider are 10th nationally in stolen bases, and their 86-percent success rate is one of the best in program history.

Junior J.D. Orr is sixth in the country with 32 stolen bases in 36 attempts. Zach Weatherford, a junior from Northmont, set the school record with 36 last season and is 16-for-16 this year.

Mercer credits assistant Matt Talarico for the aggressive baserunning. Talarico, who joined the staff in 2015 after a lengthy stint at Dayton, has his own website, “Stealbases.com.”

“I never understood the power of the stolen base until we were fortunate to have coach Talarico join us,” Mercer said. “He really is the preeminent authority on base-stealing in the country.

“I just wanted to have great athletes to play great defense. But he’s taken over the base-running, and it’s an absolute core principle of our offense.”

The top-seeded Raiders play in the double-elimination league tourney at 11 a.m. Thursday against the winner of Wednesday’s game between Oakland and Youngstown State.

The Raiders have made the NCAA tourney as a conference champ in 1994, 2006, ‘09, ‘11, ’15 and ’16. They missed out last year after losing two tight games to UIC.

“Our ultimate goal is always to go back to the NCAA tournament. And I’m not going to shy away from saying that we’ve talked a lot, and we have goals of winning our regional and going to the Super Regional and beyond,” Mercer said.

“We have the talent to make a serious run at doing those things. But we have to take care of our business, starting with the very first pitch of the conference tournament.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

Wright State vs. Penn State: What to know about Tuesday’s game in Mexico
Wright State vs. Penn State: What to know about Tuesday’s game in Mexico

Who: Wright State (3-1) vs. Penn State (2-1) When: 8:30 p.m. Tuesday TV: CBS Sports Network Radio: 106.5-FM Series: Penn State leads 1-0 Coaches: Scott Nagy is 48-23 in his third year at Wright State and 458-263 in 24 years overall. Patrick Chambers is 115-123 in his eighth year at Penn State and 157-151 overall. Mark Hughes, 6-4, Sr., G, 9.0 Cole...
Rookie quarterback sends Bengals to fourth loss in five games
Rookie quarterback sends Bengals to fourth loss in five games

Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson juked and sprinted for 117 yards in his first NFL start, Gus Edwards ran for 115 and the Baltimore Ravens ground out a 24-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday to end a three-game losing streak. Flashing the moves that enabled him to win the 2016 Heisman Trophy at Louisville, Jackson zipped in and out of...
Football playoffs: Sites, matchups announced for state semifinals
Football playoffs: Sites, matchups announced for state semifinals

Home team listed first. Pairings include AP state rank and record. Powell Olentangy Liberty (9-4) vs. 9 Lakewood St. Edward (9-3) at Mansfield Arlin Stadium 8 Pickerington Central (11-2) vs. 1 Cin. Colerain (13-0) at Piqua Alexander Stadium 6 Cin. Winton Woods (12-1) vs. 3 Massillon Washington (13-0) at Gahanna Lincoln Wilbur C. Strait Field 1 Akron...
Dayton captures Atlantic 10 volleyball tournament title for 12th time
Dayton captures Atlantic 10 volleyball tournament title for 12th time

The Dayton Flyers won the Atlantic 10 Conference volleyball tournament championship Sunday, beating Virginia Commonwealth 18-25, 25-15, 19-25, 25-16 and 15-12 at the Siegel Center in Richmond, Va. Dayton (23-7) avenged a loss to VCU in the 2017 championship game and two losses this season to VCU in the regular season. Dayton won its 12th championship...
Report: Browns could interview Condoleezza Rice for head coach job
Report: Browns could interview Condoleezza Rice for head coach job

The Cleveland Browns would like to interview former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to fill the team’s head-coaching job, ESPN reported Sunday citing an anonymous source. John Dorsey, the Browns general manager, said last week the team was open to hiring a woman as head coach, ESPN reported. Rice, who grew up in Alabama, is a longtime...
More Stories