Trojans looking to defend CVAC tourney title
By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on April 21, 2005 1:59 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Despite having won five Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference tournament championships, including last year's tournament, Mount Olive College baseball coach Carl Lancaster admits he normally is not a fan of a postseason conference tournament. This season, Lancaster is more excited than ever to play in the CVAC tournament.
No. 5 seed Mount Olive takes on No. 4 seed St. Andrews Friday in the first round of the 2005 Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference Baseball Tournament at Wilson, hosted by Barton College.
Game time is 10 a.m.
The tournament runs through Sunday with games played at Barton College and at Fleming Stadium.
The Trojans' first-round game takes place at Barton.
Mount Olive (25-25 overall, 12-12 CVAC) won four of its last six conference games to end the season and had a chance to finish in a tie for third in the CVAC standings heading into the final day of conference play. The Trojans, which were six games under .500 at the start of April, went on a seven-game winning streak and posted a 9-1 mark during a 10-game stretch.
The Trojans have not finished a season with a sub-.500 mark since moving to NCAA Division II in 1995-96. And while Lancaster says it's not something he has ever discussed with his team, sophomore third baseman Stephen Nordan says the program's winning tradition has provided motivation for the team down the stretch.
"It's a matter of team urgency," said Nordan, who ranks seventh in the CVAC with a .391 batting average. "The team realized we never had a losing season (in Division II). We started doing the little things better, like getting guys in scoring position and getting the runners in. We're playing more as a team now. We're taking pride in Mount Olive baseball tradition."
Lancaster says he's noticed a change in the team's attitude.
"The team morale is much better," said Lancaster. "The atmosphere has loosened up and we're having more fun in practice. We have a lot of talks and it's not necessarily about baseball."
Lancaster says this season has been like none other in terms of injuries. Among those out for the season or questionable for the CVAC Tournament: pitchers Weston Curles and Daniel Wood, first baseman Matt Rickard, third baseman Jonathan Pullen and outfielder Dan Smith.
"I've never experienced a season or even known of anyone that experienced a season with so many major injuries," said Lancaster. "You always expect a few injuries and maybe some nagging injuries, but never so many to so many key people."
Lancaster continued, "But I've stayed optimistic all year. The kids have been playing as hard as they can."
Sophomore designated hitter Josh Carter, who didn't play last year, ranks sixth in the conference in hitting with a .398 batting average. Carter hit .700 this past weekend in a three-game series against Pfeiffer and has hit a double in each of his last six games. Earlier this season, Carter homered in five consecutive games.
The Trojans have five starters hitting above .300 this season. Along with Carter and Nordan, shortstop Lance Martin is batting .346, center fielder Santos Estremera is at .318 and left fielder Jordan Arnold, who just recently moved into the starting lineup, is hitting .302.
"Offensively, we're trying to manufacture runs at every opportunity," said Lancaster. "We're not really a team built around the big inning."
On the mound, probable starters this weekend include right-handers Justin Staatz, Philip Pennington and Donald Huff, and lefty Bryan Corbett. Staatz pitched the second no-hitter in Trojan baseball history Saturday against Pfeiffer and earned his second CVAC Pitcher of the Week award of the season.
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