04/17/05 — Staatz throws no-hitter for MOC

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Staatz throws no-hitter for MOC

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 17, 2005 2:15 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The adage "revenge is a dish best served cold" presented a double meaning on a blustery Saturday evening at Mount Olive College.

Faithful fans wrapped tightly in blankets braved 40-degree (wind-chill) temperatures and witnessed a historical moment on the Scarborough Field diamond. Justin Staatz pitched a complete-game, seven-inning no-hitter -- n 8-3 triumph against Pfeiffer University in their NCAA Division II Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference doubleheader.

The "no-no" was the first in Staatz's career and the first for the Trojans against a CVAC opponent. It was the second no-hitter overall in Mount Olive history.

Staatz's performance helped the Trojans, who claimed the opening game 10-4, avenge a doubleheader loss against the Falcons on Feb. 9.

"He wasn't sharp tonight at all," Mount Olive coach Carl Lancaster said of Staatz. "He had a couple of scouts here looking at him. He never did loosen up and throw the baseball like I've seen him do all year. It was not his best outing, although they didn't get any hits off him."

Staatz notched eight strikeouts, walked an uncharacteristic seven batters and yielded three runs (one earned). The 6-foot-6, 235-pound right-hander escaped a troublesome first inning and retired 13 of the next 14 Falcons he faced before encountering a wild sixth inning.

Cruising with a 5-0 lead, Staatz issued back-to-back walks to Kyle Pugh and Brian York. One out later, Jordan Taylor drew a walk off Staatz to load the bases. Brian Braxton worked to a 2-2 count against Staatz, who uncorked a pitch in the dirt that catcher Dustin Richardson couldn't block.

Pugh slid hand-first to the plate as Staatz applied the tag. The umpire called Pugh safe.

"I really couldn't find it (the strike zone) there for a minute," said Staatz, unbeaten in his last three starts. "A close play at the plate ... I thought he was out, but that happens."

Braxton then popped up into shallow center field. Three Trojan defenders converged on the ball, but none caught it. York and Taylor hustled home and what appeared to be a comfortable lead had been trimmed to 5-3. Staatz induced a fielder's choice groundout to end the inning.

Mount Olive (25-23) re-established Staatz's lead during its next at-bat.

After a botched sacrifice bunt led to a fielder's choice out, the Trojans put runners at first and second. Stephen Nordan cleared the bases with a two-out triple into right center field. Josh Carter plated Nordan with a one-strike single to make it 8-3. Nordan and Carter are tied for the team lead with 45 RBI, but Carter leads 28-25 in extra-base hits.

"Good stuff," said Staatz.

Staatz retired the side in the seventh as the Trojans evened their home record at 13-13 this season.

"I didn't have my best stuff," Staatz said. "I just had to keep the ball down. I got some help from my fielders when I needed; they chased down some balls for me. We put up some runs. You can't ask for much more.

"I knew they wanted to save some pitchers so I really wanted to shut it down."

Staatz (7-4) recorded his third complete game of the season, which was the pitching staff's seventh overall. The Trojans (12-11 CVAC) collected their first shutout since a 13-0 victory at Belmont Abbey on March 12.

Pfeiffer jumped out to a 3-0 lead after three innings in the opening game.

Daniel Brown provided a third-inning RBI single and Jamie Tucker hit the first of his two home runs -- a two-run blast -- in the fourth inning.

Meanwhile, the Trojans struggled against Falcon hurler Spencer Anthony. The right-hander retired Mount Olive on strikeouts in the first inning and didn't allow a base runner until the third when Lance Martin singled to left field.

"He tricked us because we didn't think he had as good a curveball as he did," Lancaster said of Anthony. "He was throwing a very good curveball the first two or three innings. We changed our approach a little bit (and said) if we get a fastball early, we're going to put it in play and see what happens."

The adjustment led to a five-run uprising in Mount Olive's half of the fourth inning.

Carter spoiled Anthony's shutout bid with a two-out, RBI double down the left field line. Nick Paniccia tripled down the right field line to score Carter, and Paniccia scooted home for the 3-3 tie on Richardson's single to right field. An infield error and Santos Estremera's RBI single gave the Trojans a 5-3 lead.

Right-hander Philip Pennington did the rest.

The former Charles B. Aycock standout kept Pfeiffer scoreless until Tucker ripped his 14th home run of the season in the sixth inning. Pennington (5-1) eventually relinquished the mound to left-handed reliever Brett Williams in the seventh.

Williams, a transfer from East Carolina, provided 2 1/3 innings of one-hit, three-strikeout relief. Williams retired the final four batters he faced en route to his first save of the season.

"Pennington was not the best I've seen him by any means, but he battled," Lancaster said. "He made some good pitches when he needed to and we made some good plays behind Pennington. Actually, we played pretty good all day today.

"You keep doing that, you don't know what can happen."

Mount Olive punched out 26 hits in the two-game set. Carter batted 5-for-7 with two doubles and three RBI. Estremera delivered three hits, including a double, and four RBI in eight plate appearances. Martin added three hits and two RBI -- all in the first game.

The victory helped the Trojans move a step closer to claiming the No. 4 seed for next week's CVAC Tournament in Wilson. The doubleheader loss hampered Pfeiffer's chances of qualifying for the eight-team, double-elimination event. The Falcons fell to 8-15 in the league and 19-31 overall.