Mount Olive comes up short
By Rob Craig
Published in Sports on March 8, 2007 2:56 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Standing as the potential tying run at the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Mount Olive's Scott Houin crushed a ball deep to left-center field. Francis Marion center fielder Justin Greene raced in and slid on his back to make the catch on the warning track.
David Cooper -- who had been rounding third -- stopped and slammed his helmet down in frustration.
The play summed up the Trojans' performance against No. 27 Francis Marion as they fell 5-3 on Wednesday afternoon in the finale of a two-game series at Scarborough Field.
"We hit some good balls -- we just didn't get a lot to show for it," said Mount Olive coach Carl Lancaster. "I'm not as disappointed as much as I should be because we did swing the bats well."
Mount Olive certainly had its chances to take the lead and keep the Patriot bats in check.
After Francis Marion raced out to a 2-1 lead after the first inning, Patriots' pitcher Cole McKellar and Trojans' starter Phillip Pennington held the two sides scoreless until Michael Ward hit a fourth-inning solo home run.
Mount Olive got its bats going in the bottom of the fifth when the Trojans loaded the bases with only one out. Stephen Nordan -- who had a big day at the plate going 3-for-5 with an RBI -- lined a shot to shortstop Greg Phelps who snagged the ball and flipped it to second baseman David Bounds who doubled up Anthony Williams to end the threat.
Francis Marion widened its lead to 4-1 when with two outs, Phelps hit an easy ground ball to first baseman Erik Lovett who inexplicably let the ball roll between his legs allowing Jared Barkdoll to score from second base.
"The ball can't get hit between our legs with two outs and a guy on third," Lancaster said. "That's a routine play, but that's baseball though."
It was mental lapses like that which cost Mount Olive all afternoon long.
"We didn't come out mentally ready to go," said Lancaster. "We had a big error at first base and a double play with the line drive hit to the shortstop to double us up with the bases loaded. You've got to ready to go against a good ball club."
It looked as if the Trojans would finally capitalize with runners on base in the bottom of the sixth inning when they loaded the bases with no outs.
Josh Carter then hammered a pitch to the left field wall, but Patriots' left fielder Josh Smith was able to pull it in on the warning track. The sacrifice fly brought home Houin to make it 4-2, but the next two hitters, Josh Harrison and Jason Sherrer, would both fail to drive in any more runs.
"We left a small army on the bases today," said Lancaster, whose team left nine runners stranded on the base paths. "Bottom line is, we didn't come out to play today."
The Trojans' final chance for a big inning came in the bottom of the seventh when Cooper tripled with one out and came home on a single by Nordan to cut the Francis Marion lead to 4-3. A hit by Houin put runners on first and third with one out, but Lovett flew out and Dustin Richardson popped up to the second baseman to end the inning.
The loss drops No. 22 Mount Olive to 17-7 on the year while Francis Marion improves to 13-7.
Pennington (2-1) took the loss by allowing three runs in four innings while striking out five. McKellar (2-1) picked up the win by giving up just a run in five innings on four hits while striking out three while Zach Farry recorded his first save.
"We should've had the sweep, but you can't take the good teams lightly," said Lancaster, whose team won Tuesday's game against the Patriots 9-5.
"We're going to take tomorrow off and go down to Coker this weekend and hopefully, things will work out better for us."
F. Marion 200 101 001 -- 5 8 3
M. Olive 100 001 100 -- 3 8 3
Leading Hitters -- Francis Marion -- Nick Stewart 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Jared Barkdoll 2-5, 2B, RBI; Michael Ward 1-4, HR, RBI. Mount Olive -- Stephen Nordan 3-5, 2B, RBI; David Cooper 2-4, 3B, 2 R.
E -- Phelps, Bounds 2, Nordan, Lovett, Harrison. DP -- Francis Marion 1. LOB -- Francis Marion 11, Mount Olive 9. SF -- Carter. CS -- Houin.
IP H R ER BB SO
McKellar (W, 2-1) 5 4 1 1 0 3
White 0 0 1 1 2 0
Owen 1 0 0 0 0 1
Williams 1 3 1 1 0 0
Farry (S, 1) 2 0 0 0 0 1
Pennington (L, 2-1) 4 4 3 3 0 5
Curles 12/3 2 1 0 0 1
Ellis 11/3 0 0 0 2 2
Buhrow 1 1 0 0 1 1
Ball 1/3 1 1 0 2 1
Pelech 2/3 0 0 0 0 1
WP -- Pennington, Buhrow. HBP -- by Pennington (Phelps), by McKellar (Cooper). Time -- 2:50. Attendance -- 135.
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