04/20/06 — Lady Trojans open up against Erskine

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Lady Trojans open up against Erskine

By MOC Sports Information
Published in Sports on April 20, 2006 2:08 PM

Heading into this weekend's conference tournament, Mount Olive head softball coach Jaime Kylis-Higginbotham says her team needs to follow the direction of the title of a popular 80s song.


No. 9 seed Mount Olive takes on No. 8 Erskine in the first round of the 2006 Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference Softball Tournament Friday morning at Concord. Game time is 9 a.m.

Pfeiffer University is the host school for the 11-team double-elimination tournament.

Live Audio Webcasts of all of Mount Olive's games at the CVAC Tournament are available on the Mount Olive College athletics Web site at www.moc.edu/athletics.

Mount Olive (25-28 overall, 7-13) posted its highest single-season win total since 2000, when the Trojans won the CVAC Tournament. The Trojans are 7-5 in their last 12 conference games and have swept or split five of their last six CVAC doubleheaders.

The Trojans ended their regular season last week with a come-from-behind 5-4 victory over regionally sixth-ranked Francis Marion, overcoming an early 3-0 deficit and scoring two runs in the bottom of the seventh for the win.

"Ending the season on a win like that gives us a lot of confidence going into the tournament," said freshman first baseman Georgette Richardson, who homered in the game. "It shows we can come from behind and it shows we're capable of beating some of the top teams."

In addition to her four home runs, Richardson leads the conference and is tied for third in the nation with 22 doubles, two away from first place.

Along with the win over Francis Marion, the Trojans notched victories over Coker and UNC Pembroke, two teams Mount Olive has struggled with in recent years.

"We've been playing well the last couple weeks," said Kylis-Higginbotham, who is in her fourth year at Mount Olive. "We've beaten some good teams and that gives us a push going into the tournament."

After jumping out to a 7-0 start, a mid-season slide saw the Trojans' record drop five games below .500. Mount Olive went 5-3 in its final eight games.

"I think our season is coming full circle," said Kylis-Higginbotham. "Our leaders are stepping up and the team is making good decisions."

Offensively, Mount Olive is hitting .275 as a team, led by outfielder Tiffanie Pittman at .374. Pittman, outfielder Erin Wilson (.325) and Richardson are all hitting over .300. Catcher Bailey Harrell ranks second in the CVAC with 11 home runs.

Shortstop Melissa Bright ranks among the nation's leaders in a unique statistic: she is 11th in the nation in sacrifice hits.

On the mound, the Trojans have a team earned run average of 5.21, but all three pitchers have shown they can dominate. Shauna Cowdrey has two shutouts in conference play, while Krystal Bourne tossed a three-hit shutout in a CVAC win over St. Andrews.

Freshman Christine Ermer is tied for fifth in the nation with four saves, three in conference play. Ermer also pitched a perfect game against Fayetteville State.

Mount Olive was swept by Erskine in a pair of one-run games in March, but the Trojans were without Cowdrey, who was recovering from an injury.

If the Trojans defeat Erskine, they'll play top-seeded Queens Friday at 1 p.m. If the Trojans lose to Erskine, they'll play an elimination game Saturday at 11:30 a.m.

Kylis-Higginbotham says the team has been having fun all season and she hopes her squad can maintain that relaxed attitude this weekend.

"There have been times this season where we dwelled too much on mistakes, but now we're all doing a better job of letting things go, not worrying about mistakes," said Kylis-Higginbotham. "We just need to stay relaxed and have fun. When we play relaxed, there are fewer opportunities to make mistakes."