04/19/07 — Trojans on a misson

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Trojans on a misson

By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on April 19, 2007 1:48 PM

The Mount Olive College softball team has won its first regular season conference championship in 10 years and set a school record for most wins in a season. But the Trojans want to make one thing perfectly clear.

"We're not satisfied," said Melissa Bright.

Top-seeded Mount Olive begins play Friday in the 2007 Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference softball tournament at Hartsville, S.C., hosted by Coker College. The Trojans earn a first-round bye and will face either No. 8 seed Belmont Abbey or No. 9 St. Andrews in the second round. Game time is 1 p.m.

Mount Olive (36-17 overall, 16-4 CVAC) shares the regular-season title with Coker, which swept a doubleheader at Lees-McRae on Wednesday, but the Trojans earn the No. 1 seed by virtue of a tie-breaker. Ironically, the Trojans shared the regular season with Coker in 1997 and held the tie-breaker for the top seed.

The Trojans clinched the regular season title Saturday with a pair of 3-0 wins over last year's regular season and tournament champion Queens. Despite the excitement of the wins, Bright says that was only one step in the team's journey.

"The job isn't done yet," said Bright, a senior from Portsmouth, Va., and one of seven seniors on the squad.

Bright, who has platooned between left field and second base this season, is part of fifth-year head coach Jaime Kylis-Higginbotham's first-ever recruiting class, along with pitcher Shauna Cowdrey, first baseman Jamie Pruitt, second baseman Colleen Thomas, centerfielder Erin Wilson and student assistant coach Jackie Wyman.

With the No. 1 seed, Bright and her teammates get to sleep in a little bit Friday, not having to play a first-round game.

"We're thrilled not to have to play that 9 a.m. game this year," Bright said. "But more importantly, getting the No. 1 seed means one less game we have to play in the tournament."

While Mount Olive's 2007 season has been about the seniors, it's been a Trojan sophomore who has been dominant in the conference. Pitcher/designated player Jenny Jackson is at or near the top of numerous CVAC hitting and pitching statistical categories and is nationally ranked in the NCAA II stats.

Jackson is the conference leader in two-thirds of the triple crown categories -- hitting (.449) and runs batted in (57) -- and fifth in home runs with eight. On the mound, she has a 16-6 record and her 1.02 earned run average is the lowest in the conference.

In conference play, Jackson is 11-1 with a 0.66 ERA.

The Trojans' .308 team batting average is second highest in the conference. Along with Jackson, five other starters are batting over .300: sophomore catcher/dp Kensie Cobb (.409), sophomore left fielder Kat Cahoon (.378), Wilson (.336), senior right fielder Tiffanie Pittman (.336) and sophomore third baseman Morgan Whaley (.327).

The Trojans hope their regular season success can translate into a tournament championship. Bright says last Saturday's doubleheader may have been the best preparation for the tournament.

"Saturday was a must-win situation to be able to clinch the regular season title," said Bright. "It's good to know that we're able to win under that kind of pressure and it gives us an idea of how we'll respond in the tournament."

The tournament is a double-elimination format with the title game slated for Sunday afternoon. The tournament champion earns an automatic to the South Atlantic Regional of the 2007 NCAA Division II Softball Championship.

"We just need to continue playing like we know how to play," said Bright. "This is what we've been working for over the last four years."

-- MOC sports information