03/17/04 — MOC baseball triumphs over N. Florida

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MOC baseball triumphs over N. Florida

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 17, 2004 2:00 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Routine plays.

Key hits.

A darn-good pitching effort.

All those elements factored into a historic victory for the Mount Olive College baseball team Tuesday afternoon. Ricky Duke threw his second complete game of the season as the Trojans nipped No. 8-ranked North Florida 10-8 on the Scarborough Field diamond.

Mount Olive, ranked 30th nationally, earned its first-ever victory against a top-10 team and is now 3-1 against top 25 teams this season. The Trojans also denied Ospreys coach Dusty Rhodes from gaining career win No. 1,000.

Stephen Nordan

News-Argus/Dennis Hill

Mount Olive College's Stephen Nordan heads for first after getting a hit Tuesday against North Florida.

"A great win for us," Trojans coach Carl Lancaster said.

Duke appeared shaky in the first four innings. The junior right-hander surrendered seven earned runs on eight hits, including a two-run home run to Jeff Millsaps in the first.

North Florida sent 22 batters to the plate during that stretch and put the lead-off batter aboard in three innings. Duke yielded an RBI double in the third and an RBI single in the fourth.

"The first four innings everything I threw inside I was missing," Duke said. "All their hits were balls I was trying to get in, but I left them over the plate."

But Duke settled down.

He slowly worked his way inside and began hitting the corners on occasion. The Ospreys put the ball in play, but not with the authority they displayed in the first four innings.

Duke retired 13 of the next 15 batters he faced, including eight in a row in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. He notched three strikeouts and induced eight ground-ball outs.

Infielders Matt Johnson, Allen Thomas, Jonathan Pullen and Mike Maffucci each made the routine plays. Center fielder T.J. Fly snagged two fly balls in the gap, which robbed North Florida of potential extra-base hits.

"I started believing myself that I could get inside," said Duke, who has hit 13 batters this season. "Coach (Aaron) Akin calls the pitches. If I can execute the pitches that he calls, I'm going to get guys out.

"I prefer not to give up eight runs, but they hit the ball good. That's probably the best team I've ever pitched against."

Run support proved crucial for Duke as the Trojans answered each time North Florida put a run on the board.

Catcher Craig Hurba cracked a three-run home run, his 12th of the season, in the first inning. Stevie Parrish, who singled, scored on an error. Johnson plated Maffucci with a sacrifice fly to give the Trojans a 5-3 lead.

Tied at 5-5, Parrish and Maffucci each collected an RBI in the third to push to force a 7-7 tie. Hurba put the Trojans ahead 8-7 in the fourth with an RBI single to left field.

"We came back and answered," Lancaster said of the run production. "What we haven't done is when we put runs up, we haven't come back and shut them down. We did that some tonight."

The bottom half of Mount Olive's lineup -- Maffucci, Johnson, Daniels and Fly -- manufactured the game's next two runs. They ended the day with five hits and four RBI.

Kevin Daniels reached on a bunt fielder's choice in the fifth. The Ospreys booted a routine ground ball, which moved Daniels into scoring position. Daniels eventually scored on a wild pitch.

Fly rapped a critical RBI triple in the seventh after Daniels dropped a single into shallow left field.

"That was huge," Lancaster said. "He came up one time before and had a similar situation. I said T.J. get the ball out over the plate and hit it into the gap because that's where he hits.

"If you look back over the last couple of weeks, when we've done well, they've (bottom of lineup) done it. Hurba and Parrish can't do it all. Those guys have to understand that we have to get on base, not chase pitches out of the zone and make the pitchers work. That's what they've been doing.

"I've never been more happier with a win."

Duke limited the Osprey's bottom four hitters to a double in 15 at-bats.

Mount Olive claimed its 12th straight win at home and 13th overall in 14 tries.

N. Florida 203 200 001 -- 8 11 4

Mount Olive 502 110 10x -- 10 11 1

Leading hitters -- Mount Olive -- Stephen Nordan 2-5; Craig Hurba 2-4, HR, 4 RBI; Steve Parrish 2-5, 3B, RBI; Kevin Daniels 2-4,; T.J. Fly 1-4, 3B, RBI. North Florida -- William Kovatch 2-4, 2B, RBI; Ryan Knight 2-5; Jeff Millsaps 4-5, 3B, HR, 4 RBI; Joey Russell 2-5, 2B, RBI.


North Florida

Incinelli 22Ú3 7 7 4 1 2

West (L, 0-1) 42Ú3 4 3 1 1 5

Papelbon 2Ú3 0 0 0 0 1

Mount Olive

Duke (W, 6-0) 9 11 8 8 2 6

WP -- West, Duke. PB -- Belyea, Loveland.