03/26/06 — MOC softball sweeps CVAC twinbill from St. Andrews

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MOC softball sweeps CVAC twinbill from St. Andrews

Published in Sports on March 26, 2006 2:11 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- A strong wind blew at times; raindrops caused a 20-minute delay; and the temperature never broke 55.

Other than that, it was a perfect day for the Mount Olive College softball team, which easily swept St. Andrew's Presbyterian College 8-0 and 9-1 in a doubleheader at Nancy Chapman Cassell field.

The Trojans finally broke through with wins in the CVAC and are now 2-8 in conference play and 18-19 overall. The Knights dropped to 0-4 and 1-17 and both games were called early due to an eight-run differential in the later innings.

Rigil Gruca, the Trojans' lone senior, was honored in a ceremony before the doubleheader and ripped a solo homer midway through the second game. The blast fit nicely into an afternoon that was capped off by a cake celebrating her contribution to the team.

"She's made me believe again that you can play every day as if it's your last day," said Mount Olive coach Jaime Kylis-Higginbotham. "Here she is winding up her collegiate career, and she still plays with so much heart."

While it wasn't her final home appearance, the team chose to honor Gruca on Saturday because the college was in the midst of its "sportsfest" weekend, and there would be plenty of fans on hand.

Gruca, who transferred to Mount Olive after spending time at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, appreciated the crowd.

"We didn't have very many fans (in Florida)," she said. "But here it's like the whole town is out here."

Gruca went 3-for-7, scored twice and drove in two runs on the day. It was her first homerun for Mount Olive and third of her collegiate career.

The drive to center led off the bottom of the fourth for Mount Olive and gave the Trojans a 3-1 lead. It came an inning after a 20-minute rain delay and awoke the Mount Olive offense -- which scored twice in the fifth and four times in the sixth to end the game early. Freshman first baseman Georgette Richardson went 3-for-5 with four RBI in the series and hit a solo homer of her own in the second inning.

Pitchers Shauna Cowdrey and Christine Ermer combined on a four-hitter as the Knights only got two runners on base in the final five innings. It was Cowdrey's first appearance in a game since she was hit in the forehead by a line-drive in the second inning of a game against Wingate on March 14.

Cowdrey was scheduled to return to action on Friday, but the Trojans' game against Belmont Abbey was rained out. She was anxious to get back on the mound.

"I wasn't scared going into today or anything," Cowdrey said. "The first day back to practice on Wednesday, I pitched live to the team, and it was hard. I was a little jittery, but then today I was fine."

Cowdrey, known for using an ample amount of hairspray to keep her blond locks in place, joked that her "helmet-hair" prevented her from being more severely injured on the play.

Ermer, a freshman, pitched a perfect game at Fayetteville State on March 16 and continued her strong pitching by retiring six straight Knights.

In the day's opener, Mount Olive pitcher Krystal Bourne was dominant, dealing a three-hit shutout a five-inning win. Richardson and Gruca drove in runs in the first to give Bourne a 2-0 cushion. Then the Trojans exploded for four runs in the bottom of the second when Melissa Bright drove in Erin Wilson and Tiffanie Pittman with a double and catcher Bailey Harrell followed up with a two-run homer to left to make it 6-0. It was Harrell's 10th homer of the season.

"Every time I hit one, I'm just as surprised as I was when I hit the first," said Harrell, who became the first Mount Olive player to reach double-digits in homeruns since 2000. "I was not a homerun hitter in high school, and picking up the long ball is not a bad thing."

Bourne, who recorded four-straight strikeouts early in the game, leads the Mount Olive staff with an 8-6 record but also has the highest ERA on the team.

"My game's been shaky this year," said Bourne, who was hoping to pitch well in honor of Gruca, her roommate. "I swear, it was just a blessed day."

The Trojans close out the weekend with a doubleheader today at 5 p.m. against Belmont Abbey at Cassell field.

Game one

St. Andrews 000 00 -- 0 3 0

Mount Olive 241 1x -- 8 10 0

Leading hitters -- St. Andrews -- Bethany Smith 1-2. Mount Olive -- Bailey Harrell 2-2, HR, 2 RBI, 2 runs; Melissa Bright 2-3, 2 RBI, 2B; Tiffanie Pittman 2-3, 2 2Bs, 2 runs; Rigil Gruca 1-2, RBI, run.


St. Andrews

Anne Dobmeier (L) 4 10 8 8 2 0

Mount Olive

Krystal Bourne (W, 8-6) 5 3 0 0 1 6

Game two

St. Andrews 100 000 -- 1 4 4

Mount Olive 011 124 -- 9 10 0

Leading hitters -- St. Andrews -- Mika Tanji 2-3 , 2B, run. Mount Olive -- Georgette Richardson 2-4, 3 RBI, HR, 2B, 3 runs; Gruca 1-4, HR, RBI; Morgan Whaley 2-4, 3 RBI; Harrell 2-3, run.


St. Andrews

MikaTanji (L) 5 9 5 4 0 2

Amme Mason 1 1 4 2 1 0

Mount Olive

Shauna Cowdrey (W, 7-8) 4 4 1 1 1 4

Christine Ermer (S, 2) 2 0 0 0 0 2