04/08/04 — MOC nearly upsets K-Tribe in exhibition

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MOC nearly upsets K-Tribe in exhibition

By David Williams
Published in Sports on April 8, 2004 2:01 PM

KINSTON -- For most of Wednesday night, Mount Olive College's baseball team looked like it could handle Class A baseball with the pros.

Only a game-ending, three-run home run by J.J. Sherrill saved face for the Kinston Indians in a 7-5 win over the Trojans in the annual exhibition game between the two teams at Grainger Stadium.

Craig Hurba

News-Argus/Dennis Hill

Mount Olive College's Craig Hurba triples to drive in two runs in the Trojans' game against the Kinston Indians Wednesday night at Grainger Stadium in Kinston.

Until Sherrill's blast to left field off Mount Olive reliever Brett Williams, the Trojans (30-11) had taken the fight to the professional team. Mount Olive led the entire game and collected seven hits off Kinston starter Jeroime Robertson, who won 15 games for the Houston Astros last season.

Robertson, who is tagged to head to the Cleveland Indians' Triple-A affiliate Buffalo Bisons shortly, was not intimidating to the Mount Olive offense.

Leadoff hitter Allen Thomas took Robertson's first pitch to left field for a hit, and Stephen Nordan followed with a walk. The runners moved up on Craig Hurba's ground out and Thomas scored as Stevie Parrish's hot smash to second base was misplayed for a 1-0 Trojan lead.

Robertson gave up three more runs in the second as Matt Johnson laced a one-out double down the left-field line and T.J. Fly reached on a throwing error. Thomas then reached on an infield hit that scored Johnson and Hurba blasted a triple to right center field to score two runs for a surprising 4-0 Mount Olive lead.

With Mount Olive using a different pitcher for each inning of the seven-inning game, Kinston finally got on the board off Michael Erexson, who was making his first appearance since February. Eider Torres singled after Shaun Larkin drew a walk to put runners on first and second with one out. Larkin took third on a ground out to put runners on the corners and scored on an error to cut the lead down to 4-1.

Each team added a run in the fifth. Mount Olive scored when Parrish knocked a one-out double and scored on a single by Matt Rickard. The K-Tribe got the run back as Michael Aubrey doubled down the right field line, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Garko.

Kinston climbed within one run in the sixth against freshman Ryan Barham. A pair of Pinch-hitters did the job as Anthony Lunetta drove in Sherrill with a fly out, followed by Jonathan Van Every doing the same thing to bring Larkin in and close the gap to 5-4.

After relief pitcher Ryan Prahm struck out two of the three Trojans he faced in the seventh, Kinston's Clayton McCullough singled up the middle and Pat Osborn drew a walk before Sherrill parked a fastball over the wall to end the game.

Thomas and Johnson both collected two hits for Mount Olive, while the defense played near-flawless baseball.

Trojans coach Carl Lancaster was not nearly as perturbed over the loss as he pretended to be.

"We just can't come up with a win under any circumstances, can we?" he said with a smile. "We played well tonight. We had fun, we swung the bats good, the pitching was real good. And dang it, that team over there has three Division I all-Americans on it."

The game was the perfect prescription after a disappointing loss to 10th-ranked Augusta State on Tuesday. The Trojans let a close game get away in the ninth as the visiting Peach Belt Athletic Conference power prevailed 14-6.

Lancaster, whose team has six important games left in the season, thinks his club is now ready for the important final run to a Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference title and a possible NCAA regional tournament berth.

"We're ready," he said. "We have been giving up runs with mostly mental errors. We need to play like we did tonight -- go out there and have a little fun."

The Trojans' sprint to the finish begins Friday as Mount Olive hosts Anderson in a doubleheader that begins Mount Olive's last CVAC series of the regular season. After a single game Saturday and a weekday game against UNC Pembroke, Mount Olive then takes on another regional power as Georgia College and State comes to Scarborough Field for a pair of games April 16 and 17.

Kinston will open the Carolina League's regular season Friday night against Winston-Salem at Grainger Stadium.