Mercer University, while not well known to many outside the state and perhaps even to many in North Georgia, is a fine educational institution with a proud heritage. It is home to the Walter F. George School of Law, which is second only to the Joseph Henry Lumpkin School of Law as the best law school in the Empire State of the South.
Athletically, however, the principal purpose of Mercer's sports teams is to lose to the Georgia Bulldogs. On January 30, 1892, the Red and Black played the first football game in University of Georgia history, beating Mercer by a final score of 50-0.
Georgia and Mercer met on the gridiron 22 times between that inaugural contest and the cessation of football hostilities in 1941. The Bulldogs posted a record of 22-0 against the Bears, outscoring the Macon-based school by a combined margin of 656-71.
The final meeting between the two was won by the 'Dawgs by a final tally of 81-0. It was the 14th shutout in series history and the 20th time Georgia held Mercer under 10 points.
Mercer doesn't play football anymore, but there is always baseball, where the Bears' fortunes remain the same. The Diamond Dogs hosted the visitors from Macon at Foley Field on Tuesday evening, but the Red and Black would not let the Bears make a game of it.
On the strength of leadoff home runs to start each of the first two innings, Georgia carried a 2-0 lead into the third frame, when Mercer tied the ball game as a result of a Tyler McCarty double, a Josh Thompson single, a Mike Armstrong walk, an Eric Renfroe R.B.I., and a Georgia error.
The Bulldogs did not let the Bears enjoy their success for long, however. The Red and Black retook the lead with a three-run third inning before tacking on an additional four runs in the fifth frame and breaking the game open with a five-run outburst in the bottom of the seventh stanza. Recounting the sordid details of the Bulldogs' scoring simply wouldn't be sporting.
The Diamond Dogs outhit the baseball Bears, 19-9, en route to a 14-2 victory. Gordon Beckham (2 for 3, 1 home run, 1 R.B.I., 3 runs), Josh Morris (3 for 5, 1 home run, 3 R.B.I., 3 runs), and Joey Side (2 for 4, 1 home run, 3 R.B.I., 1 run) all had good days at the plate and, despite a late scoring threat by the Bears, the Georgia pitching staff held Mercer scoreless in eight of nine innings of play.
It's just Mercer, but the Bulldogs needed this one to get back on the winning track as the Red and Black prepare to resume S.E.C. play against Tennessee on Friday. The current conference standings have Georgia fourth in the Eastern Division, five games out of first place, and tied with Auburn and L.S.U. at 6-9 against the league.
Seven Southeastern Conference squads have better records in S.E.C. play than Georgia's and, heading into Tuesday's contests, eight of the league's teams had better records over their last ten games than the Diamond Dogs' 4-6 ledger. That's the bad news.
The good news is that Tennessee is one of only two teams with a worse conference record than Georgia's and the Volunteers have been exactly as bad over their last 10 outings as have the Red and Black. If the Diamond Dogs are going to climb back into contention, this weekend will be the time to do it.