02/24/05 — N.C. Wesleyan downs MOC on diamond

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N.C. Wesleyan downs MOC on diamond

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on February 24, 2005 2:16 PM

MOUNT OLIVE - North Carolina Wesleyan coach Charlie Long noticed his players were flat and unenthusiastic during pregame infield at Mount Olive College on Wednesday afternoon. He quickly urged his players to pick up their intensity going into their first at-bat.

The Bishops listened.

Wesleyan leadoff hitter and freshman Matt Smith drove Mount Olive starter Phillip Cunningham's fifth pitch of the game over the right-field fence as the Bishops jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first two innings on their way to an 8-5 win at Scarborough Field.

Mount Olive transfer Brian Massey paced Wesleyan with three singles, driving in three in the first two innings. Ryan Snyder, Nathan West and Brad Gardner also had multiple-hit games for the Bishops (6-3).

In his first collegiate start, Cunningham (0-2) lasted just 12/3 innings, giving up 10 hits and six earned runs. In those first two innings, Wesleyan got just five hits the rest of the way as the Trojans outscored the visitors 5-1 in innings three-through-seven.

"You can't spot a team seven runs and hope to win a game," Mount Olive coach Carl Lancaster said. "We are thin at pitching, and we knew some of these young guys are going to have to step it up."

Meanwhile, Bishop right-hander Kyle Holt mixed his pitches and consistently stayed around the strike zone during his six innings of work. Holt (1-0) gave up nine hits, but only three runs (two earned), while walking none in his first start of the year.

"That's something we have been stressing with our pitches ... stay around the plate," Long said. "You give yourself a chance when you throw strikes."

Trailing 7-0, the Trojans struck for two in the third and one in the fourth.

After Santos Estremera doubled to left field, Lance Martin, who singled to start the inning, raced to third from first. Estremera's double was bobbled by the left fielder, allowing Martin to score. Estremera went to third on the play, before eventually scoring on a fielder's choice.

Martin, who has five hits in his last two games, doubled home Jeff Thamann with two outs in the fourth. Holt went on to toss two scoreless innings, before relievers Josh Richardson and Ben Pearson kept Mount Olive (7-9) off the scoreboard in the seventh and eighth.

Matt Rickard's pinch-hit single to shallow left drove home Brent Long - pinch-running for Jonathan Skelley, who walked, then moved to second and third on a pair of wild pitches. Wesleyan reliever Scott Faison walked four runners in the ninth, leading to one more Mount Olive run.

With two outs, the Trojans brought the go-ahead run to the plate, but Faison eventually pitched out of the jam by striking out Jonthan Pullen to end the game. Pullen was swinging a hot bat leading up to the final plate appearance with two hits, including a double, as he joined Martin with five his in the last two games.

"We're not a very good offensive team right now, but we did swing the bat better as the game went on," Lancaster said.

Mount Olive's relief quartet of Brett Williams, Justin Staatz, Donald Huff and Brian Corbett combined to give up just five hits in the final 81/3 innings. The Bishops managed just one unearned run in the last seven innings. Relieving Cunningham, Williams -- a left-handed side-armer -- tossed 31/3 innings of shutout work.

Southern Wayne graduate and Wesleyan right fielder Ray'Mon Bizzell was 1-for-3 at the plate, and added a putout from right field. In the bottom of the first, the senior cut down Pullen at home trying to score from second in the first inning after a sharp single by Josh Carter through the right side.

The Trojans committed four errors on the game as Wesleyan benefitted from two unearned runs.

Mount Olive hosts St. Andrews this weekend for a three-game NCAA Division II Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference series. The conference foes play a doubleheader Saturday starting at noon, before finishing the series with a 1 p.m. game on Sunday.