04/18/05 — Loss leaves MOC as No. 5 seed in CVAC

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Loss leaves MOC as No. 5 seed in CVAC

By Neil Fuller
Published in Sports on April 18, 2005 1:54 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The situation at Scarborough Field was this simple Sunday afternoon: Pfeiffer University needed this one just a little more. The Falcons could not afford another loss in Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference play.

Defending CVAC regular-season champion Pfeiffer clinched the seventh seed in the upcoming conference baseball tournament with an 8-7 win over Mount Olive College.

The Falcons entered the game facing the possibility of being left out of the eight-team CVAC field.

Blake Jordan and Jamie Tucker both blasted two-run homers, and freshman reliever Ben Beard was nearly perfect over the final six innings as the Falcons salvaged the finale of a three-game series.

Beard retired the first nine Mount Olive batters he faced -- allowing Pfeiffer (19-31 overall, 9-15 CVAC) to rally from a 6-3 deficit -- in picking up his first victory in six career decisions.

"This was a must-win," Falcons coach Mark Hayes said. "We weren't going to let anything stop us today. Of course, Ben Beard stepped up and closed the game out. He got ahead of hitters all day and just did a great job.

"He kept us in this thing."

Junior right fielder Mike McClain led off the seventh inning with a solo home run to ensure Pfeiffer remained alive to see action in the conference tournament.

Mount Olive, the preseason pick to win the CVAC race, will enter the conference tournament as the No. 5 seed. The Trojans (25-24, 12-12) face fourth-seeded St. Andrews on Friday at Barton College in a first-round matchup.

The Trojans begin defense of their 2004 CVAC tournament crown on Friday at 10 a.m. with both Barton and historic Fleming Stadium serving as host sites.

Pfeiffer will face second-seeded Erskine later in the day.

"They were playing for their lives," Mount Olive coach Carl Lancaster said of the Falcons. "They knew if they lost today, they were probably headed home. They were playing for a lot more than we were, but I still don't think our kids let up. We played as hard as we could play."

That continued hard play by the Trojans almost translated into a tied score heading into the ninth inning.


Jordan Arnold's two-out RBI single scored Santos Estremera in the eighth, but McClain gunned down Dustin Richardson at the plate to escape further harm.

Beard retired the Mount Olive side in order in the ninth, including his fourth strikeout. The right-hander allowed just two hits in 62/3 innings of work.

"We had our chances there at the end," Lancaster said. "We had a guy get thrown out at home, but our guys played hard. I can live with that. I've left this field feeling a whole lot worse than I do about this one.

"Beard threw two innings against us up at their place, and threw it just as well then as he did today. He absolutely just shoved it. I'm impressed with that freshman, I really am. He's got an idea of what he's doing out there. We were just unable to put anything together against him."

Arnold drove in two runs on the afternoon to lead the Trojans, who host Barton in their final regular-season game on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Notes: Pfeiffer had at least one baserunner in each inning. ... Pfeiffer leadoff hitters reached base in each of the first seven innings. ... Mount Olive committed three errors. ... Mount Olive left-hander Bryan Corbett (4-4) absorbed the loss despite striking out seven. ... Estremera, Josh Carter and Nick Paniccia all had two hits each for Mount Olive. ... 212 were in attendence.