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Brolsma, Mercer help lead Nevada

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

Charles Whisnand

RENO – When Carson High graduates Owen Brolsma and Joe Mercer began the season for the University of Nevada baseball team, they didn’t know exactly what their roles would be.

But it didn’t take long for the two former Senators to establish their roles on the team. Both are playing key roles as Nevada enters a three-game series with Lewis-Clark State, beginning at 2 p.m. today at Peccole Park.

Brolsma, a freshman, has become Nevada’s most effective relief pitcher. Mercer, a senior, has become a versatile role player for the Wolf Pack.

Mercer was an every day starter at third base last year at Arkansas Little-Rock. But he decided to transfer to Nevada even though he didn’t really know what his role would be. Further complicating matters was knee surgery which forced Mercer to miss all of fall practice.

“When I got back it set me back quite a bit,” said Mercer about his injury. “Not seeing pitches. I got out of the swing of things.”

But Mercer quickly got back into the swing of things and the left-handed hitter is virtually assured of being in the lineup against right-handed pitching either as the third baseman or as the designated hitter. Mercer is hitting .321 (9-for-28) with one home run and 10 RBI.

Mercer has also shown the ability to hit left-handed pitching as well, so there’s a good chance that no matter who pitches, he’ll be in the lineup. Mercer’s original position was catcher, but he has since played first base as well.

It’s likely that Mercer’s value as a left-handed hitter who can play several positions will be considered by Major League teams with this year’s draft comes around.

“I haven’t given it much thought,” said Mercer about the draft. If I take care of things, things in the future will take care of themselves. I just feel real fortunate because not too many people get to play baseball.”

Mercer has also been a clutch pinch hitter, including on Sunday in which he belted a bases-clearing double with two outs that gave Nevada a 7-3 lead against Cal State Northridge. Nevada went on to win 14-6.

“It feels good any tim you can help the team like that,” Mercer said. “I just want to do anything I can to help these guys win.

“I don’t care what I do as long as these guys win. I’m just hoping that we’ll win this year.”

Brolsma was also a catcher who only pitched two innings in high school. But he’s quickly adjusting to the role as a relief pitcher. Brolsma has a 2.00 earned run average, giving up two earned runs in nine innings this season.

“It’s just different,” Brolsma said. “Basically you don’t know when you’re going to go in and when you’ll get your shot. I’ve got to be ready for any position that they put me in.”

That was demonstrated last weekend. In last Friday’s game against Northridge, Nevada was leading 5-4 in the bottom of the eighth inning and Brolsma was warming up in the bullpen, preparing to go for the save in the ninth. But the Wolf Pack scored five runs in the eighth in a 10-5 win and Brolsma’s services weren’t needed.

Since Brolsma doesn’t know when he’ll be needed, he begins preparing before the game.

“Now I get it going before the game so I can get ready a lot faster,” Brolsma said. “That helps out a lot.”

Brolsma said he’s learning that he has to stay focused on every pitch. That was demonstrated on Saturday against Northridge when Brolsma came into the game with runners at second and third and two outs and Nevada trailing 6-5.

Brolsma was in a nine-pitch battle with Nick Mahin. Brolsma got ahead 1-2 and threw a slider that just missed inside.

“It was pretty inside,” Brolsma said. “I would have called a strike. In that situation I was hoping he’d get himself out.

In that situation you don’t want to throw anything to fat. You’ve just got to keep pumping strikes in that situatio and hopefully he hits himself into an out.”

But Mahin ran the count 3-2 and then Brolsma walked Mahin, throwing a wild pitch that allowed Northridge to score a run in Nevada’s 7-5 loss.

“I’m not sure what happened on that one,” Brolsma said. “It wasn’t a lack of focus. That was about the worst thing I could do is walk the guy and throw a wild pitch. You’ve got to come in and get the job done.”

Brolsma also struggled in his previous outing against California in Berkeley. He came in with runners at first and second and no outs. He got two outs on a sacrifice bunt and sacrifice fly that scored a run. But then Brolsma issued a walk and hit a batter to load the bases.

He was pulled, but was taken off the hook and Nevada went on to win 7-5. “The last couple of outings I haven’t been very good,” said Brolsma before Tuesday’s game at St. Mary’s.

In that game, Brolsma was more effective in Nevada’s 10-6 loss, not allowing a run in two-thirds of an inning.

The first real pressure situation that Brolsma faced was in an 8-6 loss at UNLV where he pitched well.

“When I went out in Vegas, my heart was beating a million miles an hour. I don’t even know where the ball was going.”

“It’s coming off every time I come out there,” said Broslma about the pressure. “I’ve calmed down a lot.”

Contact Charles Whisnand at cwhisnand@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1214.