WALLA WALLA - One day after letting a five-run, ninth-inning lead slip away, Whitman College bounced back behind the strong right shoulder of Blaine Mercado to pin a 2-1 Northwest Conference defeat on Puget Sound Sunday afternoon at Borleske Stadium.
Both brilliant and steadfast, Mercado tossed a three-hit, nine-inning gem against a Logger team that had erupted for 20 runs over the final 10 innings of Saturday's doubleheader sweep of the Missionaries.
As a man of many talents, Mercado also drove home the winning run on Sunday to help the undermanned Missionaries claim their first triumph of the season and give first-year head coach Jared Holowaty his first victory in a Whitman uniform.
Whitman, off a 1-2 start in the NWC, lost all 11 of its early non-conference games, although four of those losses came by four or fewer runs. Sunday's loss leaves Puget Sound at 2-1 in conference and 6-5 on the season.
After Mercado held Puget Sound hitless through its first six at-bats, Whitman broke through for two runs in the bottom of the sixth.
With a two-run lead, Mercado gave up his first hit in the top of seventh - Chaz Kramer's two-out double down the left-field line. Kramer was left stranded when the next hitter rapped a soft liner to second baseman Patrick Stauffer.
In the top of the ninth, Puget Sound's Doug Cox added to the drama by grounding a ball down the third-base line for a lead-off double. Kramer lined a sacrifice fly to left, sending Cox to third.
Jason Powell drew a full-count walk and gave way to pinch-runner Nick Cherniske, who was promptly caught leaning by Mercado. Rodhouse, playing first base, took the pick-off throw and nailed Cherniske at second as Cox trotted home to make it a 2-1 game.
With the Loggers down to their final out, Mercado enticed Andrew Grady into a game-ending groundball to second base that Stauffer handled to finish an error-free defensive effort by the Missionaries.
Mercado fanned four and walked six, although Rockey was given two intentional passes a day after he knocked three homers over the Borleske fences.
Whitman, which left seven runners on based over the first four innings, finished with nine hits. Kitamura, Tolleson and Rodhouse finished with two hits each.
Whitman heads to Portland, Ore., next weekend for a three-game NWC series against Lewis & Clark.
Puget Sound hosts Whitworth next weekend in Tacoma.
UPS 000 000 1 - 1 3 3
Whitman 000 002 x - 2 9 0
Nohara, Lane (6), C. Robinson (6), M. Robinson (7) and Rockey. Mercado and Korsmo.
HR - none.
Hits - UPS: D. Cox, Kramer, M. Cox. Whit: Kitamura 2, Richards, Tolleson 2, Korsmo, Sease, Rodhouse 2.