It was a dramatic and not entirely pretty game. Most importantly, for the Samford baseball team, it was a win.

The Bulldogs saw a four-run lead erased on three Mercer home runs and had to fight off runners in scoring position in the final two innings. When it was done, the Bulldogs had a gutsy 5-4 road win to forge a tie with Mercer for the Southern Conference lead with two games left in the regular season.

While it wasn't a typical SoCon outing for Jacob Cravey, the Samford starter battled his way to the win and just might have cemented his spot as the SoCon Pitcher of the Year. Cravey improved to 9-2 overall and 7-0 in SoCon play. He allowed nine hits, including three home runs, walked three, struck out nine and threw 118 pitches in eight innings.

Perhaps his best work came at the end of a grueling outing for him. Mercer had the bases loaded with one out, and the score tied at 4 in the bottom of the eighth inning. Cravey answered with back-to-back strikeouts without throwing a pitch called for a ball on either batter. He got the first batter on four pitches, and it took five pitches to get the third out.

Samford (30-22 overall, 13-6 SoCon) quickly took the lead in the top of the ninth inning. Garrett Staton led off with a sharp single to left field and moved to second base on a passed ball. Jayden Davis then directed a full-count fastball through the middle to score Staton with the go-ahead run. It was Davis' second hit of the game as he extended his school and SoCon record hitting streak to 35 games.

Samford closer Ben Petschke came on in the bottom of the ninth inning looking for his 12th save of the season. It wasn't easy. Mercer had runners on the corners with one out. Petschke got a huge strikeout for the second out and then got a flyout to end the game.

Samford's four-run lead was built on a solo home run by Stephen Klein, a two-run double by Kaden Dreier and a RBI single by Josh Rodriquez.

The teams will play again on Friday at 5 p.m. CT and close the series on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT. Samford can clinch at least a tie for the SoCon title and the top spot in the Southern Conference Tournament with a win on Friday.

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