03/14/07 — Hodges, Trojans shut out Bryant

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Hodges, Trojans shut out Bryant

By MOC Sports Information
Published in Sports on March 14, 2007 2:43 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Casey Hodges recorded a collegiate-high 11 strikeouts and took a perfect game into the fifth inning as nationally 26th-ranked Mount Olive defeated Bryant 3-0 in non-conference baseball Tuesday at Scarborough Field. Hodges allowed only one hit in six innings and combined with three other pitchers for the Trojans' second shutout in their last four games.

Mount Olive (20-8) took advantage of a pair of fielding miscues to score two runs with two outs in the bottom of the first. David Cooper, who led off the inning with a single, advanced to third on an errant pickoff attempt at second base and scored when the ball was misplayed in center field. Dustin Richardson walked and Erik Lovett followed with an RBI double on a misjudged fly ball that landed well in front of the Bryant right fielder.

That would be all the offense Hodges (1-1) would need as he struck out five of the first six batters he faced, striking out the side in the second. He needed only five pitches to retired the side in the top of the third, getting a pair of one-pitch outs and a three-pitch strikeout. He got out of the fourth inning on only seven pitches.

Bryant (7-8) would get its first hit in the fifth inning as Mike Rocco lined a 1-1 pitch through the right side for a clean single. Rocco finished with two of Bryant's three hits.

The Trojans would not muster much more offense against Bryant starter Brent Almeida (1-2), who settled down to retired eight consecutive batters during one stretch until running into trouble in the bottom of the sixth. Scott Houin drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on Richardson's ground ball when Bryant was unable to convert the force out.

Lovett followed with a line single up the middle to bring home Houin. A ground out moved the runners to second and third, but reliever Eric Polvani got out of the inning when left fielder T.J. Magnell caught a fly ball in foul territory and threw Richardson out at the plate for the inning-ending double play.

Weston Curles took over for Hodges on the mound to start the seventh and after giving up a two-out single to Rocco, recorded his second strikeout of the inning. Todd Jeffreys entered the game to start the eighth and overcame a leadoff single by Jason Alexander with the help of a 6-4-3 double play, started by a backhand grab by Cooper deep in the hole at short.

Patrick Ball retired the side in order in the top of the ninth to earn his third save of the season. Ball recorded one strikeout and ended the game on a come-backer to the mound.

In a pitcher's duel that clocked in at just over two hours, the four Trojan pitchers recorded 14 strikeouts and limited Bryant to three hits, while the Bulldogs' two pitchers combined on a six-hitter.

Cooper and Lovett finished with two hits apiece for Mount Olive.

Hodges' 11 strikeouts are the most this season for a Mount Olive pitcher this season and mark the first double-digit strikeout performance by a Trojan since Justin Staatz reached the 10-strikeout mark twice in 2006.

Mount Olive makes it three games in three nights as the Trojans play host to Indiana (Pa.) for a two-game non-conference series beginning Wednesday at 7 p.m. The series concludes Thursday at 6 p.m. at Scarborough Field. Bryant, which defeated Indiana Monday at Scarborough Field, continues its swing through Eastern North Carolina with a trip to Wilson to take on Barton Thursday at 2 p.m.