04/25/04 — CVAC Tournament -- Thomas' throw saves MOC

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CVAC Tournament -- Thomas' throw saves MOC

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on April 25, 2004 2:01 AM

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Unless you follow Mount Olive College baseball religiously, you would know that Allen Thomas' natural position is in the infield.

But the savvy senior turned in one tremendous outfield ... yes, outfield ... play Saturday afternoon against Limestone (S.C.) College in the NCAA Division II Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference tournament.

Thomas' perfect throw from deep left field hit catcher Craig Hurba, who was just right of the plate, in the chest. Hurba fielded the ball and it appeared that the Saints' Phillip Soden slid under the tag.

However, the home plate umpire said otherwise. He called Soden out on the play which drew a mixed reaction from the Duncan Park crowd. Limestone's coach vehemently argued the play, but the umpire stood his ground.

Mount Olive survived the 11-inning thriller 6-5 and faced Erskine (S.C.) College in a semifinal-round contest later Saturday evening.

"It was an absolute classic," veteran Trojans coach Carl Lancaster said.

Trailing 4-1, the sixth-seeded Saints tied the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the eighth. Matt Craig doubled to left center. Brian Corbett relieved starter Matt Rusch, who had yielded one run at that point. Corbett retired the first batter he faced and walked the next one.

Darius Pullen drove a fly ball to deep right field. The Trojans' Stevie Parrish reached for the catch near the wall, but the ball deflected off his glove and bounced to his left. Parrish had trouble finding the ball and Pullen raced around the basepath for a three-RBI, inside-the-park home run.

The teams battled through two scoreless innings.

The Trojans, who stranded four runners in scoring position in the eighth, ninth and 10th innings combined, finally capitalized in the top of the 11th.

Matt Johnson laced a one-out double down the right-field line and took third on a wild pitch. T.J. Fly executed a perfect squeeze bunt and the Saints defense couldn't finish the play. Fly reached first on the error and pinch-hitter Johnathan Pullen roped a two-out single to left center to keep the rally going. Fly scored from first on the base hit to give Mount Olive a 6-4 advantage.

Just before Limestone batted in the 11th, Lancaster moved Thomas to the outfield. Zach Nichols, who had pinch-hit the inning before, replaced Thomas at second base.

The Saints pulled within 6-5 and gambled for the game-tying run on sophomore catcher David Wise's double. Thomas' game-saving throw preserved the win. Mount Olive is now 3-1 in extra-inning contests this year and 8-6 in CVAC Tournament play since 2000.

"I knew once it kicked off the wall, they were going to try to score," Thomas said. "I wasn't worried about hitting a cut or nothing, just getting the ball home."

Mount Olive (35-15) carried the momentum of yesterday's onslaught against seventh-seeded Erskine into Saturday morning's game. The Trojans posted two runs in each of the second and third innings.

Matt Rickard scored when the Saints defense misplayed Kevin Daniels' sacrifice bunt. The ball sailed into right field and Daniels advanced to third. Johnson plated Daniels with a groundout to make it 2-0 after 1 1/2 innings.

Thomas legged out an infield single, stole second and crossed home on Hurba's single to left field in the third. Hurba, a shocking second-team All-CVAC selection, finished the afternoon 5-for-6 and is 8-for-11 with seven RBI in the first two tournament games.

Parrish slapped a triple off the left-field wall, coming close to tying Mount Olive's single-season record for home runs. Hurba easily scored to make it 4-0.

The Trojans had two chances to score Parrish, but left him on third. The offensive futility continued through the middle innings as the Trojans continued to leave runners aboard. They left 10 on base overall, including nine in scoring position.

It looked as if a four-run lead would be enough for Rusch, who benefited from numerous double plays by an error-free defense. Rusch threw 7 1/3 innings and fanned three Limestone batters before giving way to Corbett.

Corbett picked up his fifth win of the season. Steve Wesley threw two-thirds of an inning and earned his first save.

"I can't say enough about our effort and theirs," Lancaster said. "We both did some outstanding things. Nobody deserved to lose that ball game."

2004 NCAA Division II

Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference

baseball tournament

(at Duncan Park, Spartanburg, S.C.)

Mount Olive 022 000 000 02 -- 6 12 0

Limestone 000 001 030 01 -- 5 12 2

Leading hitters -- Mount Olive -- Craig Hurba 5-6, 2B, RBI; Stevie Parrish 2-5, 2B, 3B, RBI; Matt Johnson 2-5, 2B; T.J. Fly 1-3, RBI. Limestone -- Pullen 3-5, HR, 4 RBI; House 2-5; Craig 3-4, 2B.

E -- Lutz, Pucetas. DP -- Mount Olive 4, Limestone 1. LOB -- Mount Olive 10, Limestone 9. SH -- Fly, Clary. SF -- Long. SB -- Thomas, Parrish, Fly, Lutz. CS -- Fly.


Mount Olive (35-15)

Rusch 7 1/3 8 2 2 0 3

Corbett (W, 5-1) 3 3 3 3 2 3

Wesley (S, 1) 2/3 1 0 0 0 1

Limestone (27-27)

Pucetas 7 7 4 2 3 2

Haney 0 0 0 0 1 0

Blackwell 2/3 0 0 0 0 0

Cochran 1 1/3 1 0 0 0 0

Turner 2 4 2 2 0 1

WP -- Turner 3. HBP -- Lutz (by Rusch). BK -- Corbett.