03/09/04 — Pitcher helps MOC win slugfest

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Pitcher helps MOC win slugfest

By David Williams
Published in Sports on March 9, 2004 1:56 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- On a day when offense was a commodity, Mount Olive College's depleted pitching staff received a premium effort from Matt Rusch.

A junior right-hander, Rusch provided 41Ú3 innings of shutout relief as the Trojans out-dueled Shepherd (W. Va.) College 22-10 on the Scar-borough Field diamond Monday afternoon. Rusch yielded three hits and received a pair of inning-ending double plays from the Trojan defense.

"We were hoping not to use Rusch as much as we did," Mount Olive coach Carl Lancaster said. "Our pitching is way down right now from the weekend and last week. We've got 12 games in 10 days."

A three-game weekend series at St. Andrews, which included an extra-inning slugfest on Sunday, forced Lancaster to depend on his bullpen more than he would have liked. The cupboard wasn't bare heading into the Shepherd game, but Lancaster didn't have many options.

Left-hander Weston Curles started his third game of the season and limited the Rams to two hits. Curles retired five of six batters in one stretch after surrendering a lead-off home run to Charlie Drummond in the second.

Mount Olive led 10-1 at that point.

The Trojans added five runs in the bottom of the second. Allen Thomas delivered a one-out, two-RBI double. Craig Hurba, working as the designated hitter, slapped a three-run home run. The Trojans seemed to be in control, but Lancaster wondered if his team would lose another lead like it did against St. Andrews.

Curles walked Shepherd's Joe Cook to start the fourth. Josh Delawder legged out an infield single. Drummond hit into a fielder's choice, but the Trojans misplayed the ball at second base. Curles settled down to record two straight outs, but the floodgates opened after that.

Shane Vines, Eric Chrisman, Adam Caron and Tavis Laws each greeted Curles with a single. An outfield error and Delawder's bases-clearing triple pulled the Rams to within 15-9. Drummond drove in Delawder to make it 15-10.

"We just go after hitters and expect the infielders to make plays," Lancaster said. "We didn't make that play, and the next thing you know they put a nine-spot on us."

The Trojans (17-6) failed to score with the bases loaded in their half of the fourth.

Curles encountered trouble in the fifth and departed after surrendering a two-out single to Caron, the No. 9 hitter. Rusch closed the door with an inning-ending strikeout.

Mount Olive erupted for seven runs over the next four innings. Dan Smith slapped a two-run home run, his first of the season, in the fifth. Dustin Richardson ripped the first of two home runs, a two-run belt, in sixth and added a solo round-tripper in the seventh.

"Dan came in, hadn't played much lately and had some great at-bats," Lancaster said. "The little catcher (Richardson) back there today hits two home runs. I don't know if we'll ever get him out of the top of the trees. I was real pleased with him.

"We gave (starting catcher) Hurba some rest day because he caught three this weekend."

Hurba added an RBI double in the seventh and ninth innings. A 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior, Hurba finished the day with five hits and a career-best eight RBI. Hurba and Steve Parrish are tied for the team lead in home runs (8), but Hurba is the RBI leader with 35.

Mount Olive set a season high for runs (22) and an unofficial single-game record for home runs with five. Seven starters had at least one hit and six combined for 20 of the team's 22 RBI. Smith provided the other two RBI off the bench.

"We hit the ball well," Lancaster said.

Shepherd (2-4) put a runner aboard in each of the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings. Rusch never wavered in his seventh appearance of the season. The 5-11, 165-pound hurler induced six ground-ball outs and one infield pop-up to go along with three strikeouts.

Shortstop Bruce Brown, in his first start of the season, notched three putouts and three assists during that stretch. Two putouts and an assist occurred on double plays. A junior, Brown finished the day with five putouts and seven assists in 13 fielding chances.

"Brown was really nice defensively," Lancaster said. "Rusch did a great job. The key to that team was to throw strikes, stay around the plate, keep the ball down and let us play defense."

The teams play again today at 1 p.m.

Shepherd 010 900 000 -- 10 13 6

Mt. Olive (10)50 023 11x -- 22 20 4

Leading hitters -- Mount Olive -- Allen Thomas 3-7, 2B, 4 RBI; Dan Smith 2-4, HR, 2 RBI; Craig Hurba 5-6, 2B, 2 HRs, 8 RBI; Steve Parrish 3-5, 2B, HR, 3 RBI; Dustin Richardson 2-6, HR, 3 RBI; T.J. Fly 3-4, RBI. Shepherd -- Tavis Laws 2-5, RBI; Charlie Drummond 3-4, HR, 2 RBI; Norris Roy 2-4, RBI; Bryan Lowry 2-3.


Shepherd (2-4)

McCullough (L, 1-2) 1 6 10 3 3 0

Graham 4 8 7 7 1 3

Magnanelli 2 5 4 4 4 0

Kozak 1 1 1 1 1 2

Mount Olive (17-6)

Curles 42Ú3 12 10 1 1 3

Rusch (W, 1-1) 41Ú3 1 0 0 2 4

WP -- McCullough, Curles. PB -- Richardson. HBP -- Serrano (by Curles); Warner (by Graham); Parrish (by Graham); Hurba (by Graham).