MOC sweeps No. 4 Catawba
By Dan Friedell
Published in Sports on April 12, 2006 2:02 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- During his baseball career, Mount Olive pitching coach Aaron Akin advanced to Double-A within the Florida Marlins' organization. When it comes to pitching, he knows what he's talking about. But he never knows when his pitchers are going to open their minds to his instruction.
Via an impressive performance in their final home outing of the season, Trojan starters Paul Buhrow and Daniel Wood demonstrated that they had fully become Akin disciples, leading Mount Olive to a sweep of a doubleheader over Catawba, the No. 4-ranked Division II baseball program in the country.
"For me, I'm trying to figure out the best way to teach them how to win," Akin said. "A lot of times, it's not mechanical. It's more mental."
Buhrow buzzed through the Indians' lineup in game one, pitching a complete game one-hitter and notching his second win of the season as Mount Olive prevailed 3-1. While Wood was not quite as good in game two, he effectively worked his way out of trouble in the second and sixth innings to help the Trojans to their 12th-straight win, 5-1. To top off the pitching performance, senior righty Donald Huff pitched a scoreless seventh in his final outing at Scarborough Field.
For Buhrow, the lone blemish in the hit column came on a clean single by Jimbo Davis in the second inning. He gave up an unearned run in the sixth via a sacrifice fly after Nick Lefko walked and advanced to third on an infield error.
"I've been talking to Coach Akin about slowing down and keeping the ball in the zone," said Buhrow, who needed just 76 pitches to complete seven innings. "I did that today and it worked out for me."
Mount Olive head coach Carl Lancaster, whose squad advanced to 33-11 with the wins and dropped Catawba to 37-10, said he hopes the sweep will give the NCAA tournament selection committee a reason to put the Trojans into the postseason even if they don't win the CVAC tournament two weeks from now in Wilson.
When it comes to pitching, Akin agreed that anyone who watches "Baseball Tonight" with regularity can verbalize basic strategy: throwing strikes, getting into a count that favors the pitcher and trusting the defense.
"I have a little bit of a system," he said. "But it's not any crazy philosophy that anybody else doesn't have."
The challenge this year has been to convince Buhrow, a lefty transfer from St. Petersburg College, that he didn't have to strike out every batter he faced to be successful.
"He's got good enough stuff that he feels like he could strike everybody out," Akin said. "So what happens is he'll make two good pitches an at-bat and make three that aren't even close. And we're always in a 2-2, 3-2, 3-1 count where the hitter knows what's coming."
Tuesday, Buhrow was often ahead in the count and was the beneficiary of eight first-pitch outs.
The quick swings help fielders stay on their toes.
"It makes it a heck of a lot easier," said shortstop David Cooper, who led the Trojans' offense in game two with a triple, run and RBI. "If they start throwing balls, we get our minds out of the game. When they're out there throwing strikes, you're expecting the ball every pitch."
The Mount Olive infield turned three double plays in 14 innings, which held the strong Catawba offense (averaging nearly nine runs per game) in check.
"We just didn't' really come to play in the first game, and he did a good job taking advantage of that," said Davis, a .333 hitter who went 1-3 with a strikeout against Buhrow. "In a lot of weekday games, there's not that intensity. He brought his intensity, and we didn't. He did a good job."
Ironically, Buhrow said he has been working on being less intense and more relaxed on the mound. When he's pitching poorly, he's aware of things like the music between innings and the chatter in the dugouts and on the field. Tuesday was different.
"I felt great. I didn't feel any stress at all," Buhrow said. "I didn't hear anything today, and that was great. I didn't even hear my own head."
Even if a pitcher is in the midst of a career game, runs need to be scored to win.
The Trojans just got enough, scoring an unearned run in the second; putting together three singles in the third to make it 2-0; and getting an insurance run through Anthony Williams' double that scored Graham Wooten in the bottom of the sixth after Catawba had cut the lead to 2-1.
In game two, Catawba starter Paul Link's throwing error on Cooper's bunt single resulted in two runs and sparked a four-run second.
Catawba 000 001 0 -- 1 1 3
Mount Olive 011 001 x -- 3 8 1
Leading hitters -- Catawba -- Jimbo Davis 1-3. Mount Olive -- Dustin Richardson 2-3, 2B, RBI, run; Stephen Nordan 2-3, run.
IP H R ER BB SO
Smith (L, 3-2) 42/3 6 2 1 1 3
Benton 1 2 1 1 1 1
Evans 1/3 0 0 0 0 0
Buhrow (W, 2-2) 7 1 1 0 0 6
Catawba 000 001 0 -- 1 7 2
Mount Olive 004 001 x -- 5 8 2
Leading hitters -- Catawba -- Davis 2-3, Mark Smith 1-4, run. Mount Olive -- David Cooper 2-4, 3B, RBI, run; Anthony Williams 1-2, 2 runs.
IP H R ER BB SO
Link (L, 4-1) 42/3 6 4 1 3 3
Baker 11/3 2 1 1 0 1
Wood (W, 4-1) 6 1 1 2 3
Huff 1 1 0 0 0 1
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