04/20/07 — CVAC baseball tournament: Lovett, Layne, Lancaster cop top league awards

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CVAC baseball tournament: Lovett, Layne, Lancaster cop top league awards

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 20, 2007 3:15 PM

WILSON -- Erik Lovett trotted toward home plate, received a congratulatory handshake and tucked the all-conference plaque underneath his arm.

Moments later, Lovett appeared stunned when the public address announcer acknowledged him for another award -- the 2007 Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference Player of the Year. Lovett felt Belmont Abbey freshman Alex Castellanos might snag the award.

"Castellanos had a great year, too," said Lovett, first baseman for Mount Olive College. "I didn't know who it would be."

Lovett emerged one of 12 Trojans to earn either first- or second-team recognition during Thursday evening's awards presentation at Fleming Stadium. Joining Lovett on the first team were David Cooper, Stephen Nordan, Dustin Richardson, Scott Houin, Tom Layne and Judson Smith.

Layne was named CVAC Pitcher of the Year.

League coaches accorded second-team honors to Josh Carter, Josh Harrison, Casey Hodges, Darrell Ellis and Patrick Ball.

"It's amazing that we did get that many guys on the all-conference team," said MOC head coach Carl Lancaster, who grabbed his fifth CVAC Coach of the Year plaque. "I think everyone we nominated made it, so that pretty much speaks for itself. The guys did their job and they deserved it.

"I'm very pleased with that."

Offseason surgery and a change in his swing paid dividends for Lovett. The former junior college standout suffered a season-ending knee injury during opening weekend. He managed to play this past summer in the wooden-bat Coastal Plain League, but the knee still nagged him.

Lovett visited the doctor again and had surgery to clean up the torn cartilage. Tony Williams and his staff at Goldsboro Physical Therapy helped rehabilitate Lovett, who turned in a phenomenal junior campaign.

The Southern Wayne graduate emerged the CVAC leader in two of three triple crown categories with 17 home runs and 65 RBI. Castellanos led the league in batting average and finished second behind Lovett in homers.

Lovett attributed his offensive success to assistant coach Rob Watt.

"We just changed my approach and I started hitting the ball to left field, and good things happened," said Lovett. "Coach Watt has helped me out a lot and he's a definite part of this (award)."

Layne appeared just as surprised as Lovett.

The senior right-hander posted a team-leading seven wins and threw 611/3 innings this season. He's thrown three complete games in 11 appearances and possesses a 3.67 earned run average -- third-best on the team behind fellow bullpen starters Hodges and Smith.

"I had a good season early on and the middle was a little bit rough," said Layne, who didn't pitch during two CVAC weekends. "Midweek, there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. That's the motivation to get you going.

"You realize you have to do enough during the week to make sure you throw a pitch that's the difference between a home run and a ground ball."

Layne led all CVAC hurlers with 56 strikeouts.

"I've been able to control what I'm throwing," he said. "I throw a lot of strikes and get ahead of guys. It seems like I've good enough stuff that when I get ahead, I can put them away."