Brown's walk-off single saves Mount Olive
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 22, 2004 1:56 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- The Mount Olive College baseball team, thanks to Bruce Brown, survived its worst outing of the year Sunday afternoon against Belmont Abbey.
Brown delivered a one-out, walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Trojans escaped the scrappy and upset-minded Crusaders 8-7 at Scarborough Field. The one-run decision, the second in less than 24 hours, allowed Mount Olive to complete a 3-0 sweep in the NCAA Division II Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference series.
Mount Olive exited the weekend with an 11-4 conference worksheet and is just a half game behind co-leaders Coker and Pfeiffer, who are both 9-3. Barton is one game back of the Trojans in fourth place.
Belmont Abbey, 2-18 on the road this season, remained in the CVAC cellar at 1-11.
"We're very fortunate to beat this club," Mount Olive coach Carl Lancaster said. "I truly think it's the worst effort we've had (this season). They've scrapped all year and haven't been able to get over the hump.
"If you look back at the scores, they've played people good."
The Crusaders stumbled to 1-8 in road CVAC games this season but not before scaring the Trojans with a ninth-inning rally of their own.
Trailing 7-6, Abbey's Chris Brake laced a two-strike single against Trojans reliever Ricky Duke -- Mount Olive's fourth pitcher of the contest -- into left field. Derek Brown moved Brake into scoring position with a base hit. Ian Gibson plated Brake for the 7-7 tie with a sharply-hit single to left field.
Duke walked the bases loaded and Lancaster sat back in his chair in the dugout. Duke, who missed getting his third save of the season, induced a double-play ground ball to end the inning.
Stephen Nordan started the Trojan ninth with a base hit up the middle. Nordan stole second and scored when Brown delivered his walk-off single up the middle.
Mount Olive, ranked 30th nationally, seized its 15th home win of the season. But Lancaster couldn't express any contentment from gaining a 3-0 sweep against the Crusaders, who have 20 freshmen and sophomores combined on their 29-player roster.
"I'm really concerned that these guys don't have any more determination to bury a team when you've got the chance," Lancaster said. "I don't know how many (runners) we left on, but we had a ton."
The Trojans left 10 runners on base and hit into three rally-killing double plays in three different innings. Two occurred with the bases loaded in the fourth and seventh innings.
Lancaster was most disappointed with the eighth.
Allen Thomas collected his first hit of the afternoon, stole second and remained there when Kevin Daniels drew a walk. Craig Hurba, upset by a third-strike call in the sixth inning, swung at the first pitch which led to the infield fly rule.
Belmont reliever Joel Perkins misplayed the ball and Thomas got hung up between second and third. Crusader shortstop Josh Haire tagged Thomas to complete the double play and Perkins concluded the inning by striking out Stevie Parrish.
"Craig is up and we've got our best two runners (on base) and we've got third base stolen ... standing up both of them," Lancaster said. "Hurba never swings at the first pitch, pops it up and we got a double play out of that."
The bullpen frustrated Lancaster as well. He has yet to find a consistent third starter in the rotation. Sophomore Ryan Barham, who threw a no-hitter against Virginia State in his last outing, drew the nod against the Crusaders.
Barham yielded four first-inning runs and never consistently found the strike zone. He left the game down 5-3 after surrendering a lead-off home run to Chris Stone, which was his first of the season.
Junior right-hander Josh Clow averaged in the low 90s during his one-inning stint on the hill. However, he walked the bases loaded before forcing Haire to hit an inning-ending groundout to Matt Johnson at second base.
Lancaster called upon Matt Rusch, who responded by allowing just one hit in three innings. Belmont pulled within 7-6 on Gibson's RBI single during that stretch.
"I thought Rusch was big for us," Lancaster said. "After it was all said and done, I wish I had left him out there for the ninth. We just didn't come out to play today and that means we're not the team I hoped we would be."
Mount Olive (26-8) will take the week off before heading to Erskine (S.C.) College for a single game Friday at 3 p.m. The teams will play a doubleheader beginning at noon Saturday.
Belmont Abbey 400 100 101 -- 7 10 1
Mount Olive 300 400 001 -- 8 13 2
One out, one runner on base when game ended.
Leading hitters -- Mount Olive -- Craig Hurba 1-4, 2B, RBI; Steve Parrish 1-3, 3B, 2 RBI; Stephen Nordan 2-5, RBI; Shawn Warner 3-5, 3B, RBI; Matt Johnson 1-4, RBI; T.J. Fly 1-4, RBI. Belmont Abbey -- Chris Brake 2-4; Derek Brown 2-3, RBI; Ian Gibson 2-4, 2 RBI; Alex Udwari 2-4, RBI; Chris Stone 1-4, HR, RBI.
E -- Stone, Hurba, Nordan. DP -- Belmont Abbey 3, Mount Olive 2. LOB -- Belmont Abbey 10, Mount Olive 10. SB -- Bullard, Brake, Brown, Udwari 2, Thomas, Nichols.
IP H R ER BB SO
Duckworth 3 1/3 7 7 7 4 3
Perkins (L, 1-4) 5 6 1 1 2 4
Barham 4 6 5 4 4 2
Clow 1 0 0 0 3 1
Rusch 3 1 1 0 0 3
Duke (W, 7-0) 1 3 1 1 1 0
WP -- Duckworth, Clow 2. HBP -- Hurba (by Duckworth), Brake (by Rusch).
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