04/23/07 — CVAC champs: Mount Olive claims second straight baseball tournament crown

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CVAC champs: Mount Olive claims second straight baseball tournament crown

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 23, 2007 1:47 PM

WILSON -- Anthony Williams knew Mount Olive had to answer Anderson's sixth-inning challenge Sunday afternoon.

Hitless in his previous two at-bats, Williams worked himself into a hitter's count. Ahead 2-1 against Anderson ace Chris Pitts, Williams drilled a lead-off single to left field.

"With them scoring two runs, that was big," said Williams. "Getting on (base) to start off any inning is big. I've got (David) Cooper behind me. He always either moves me over or gets a base hit.

"I say a prayer before every game to let me get on (base) as much as possible."

Cooper singled and Stephen Nordan supplied a two-RBI base hit as the top-seeded Trojans sent 10 batters to the plate during the four-run uprising. That was all the cushion starter Casey Hodges and reliever Weston Curles needed.

Hodges exited with no outs and the bases loaded in the seventh. Curles tossed three innings of one-hit scoreless relief and Mount Olive prevailed 10-3 in the Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference tournament championship at historic Fleming Stadium.

The top-seeded Trojans (44-11 overall) seized the automatic bid to the NCAA Division II South Atlantic Regional, which begins May 17. It was Mount Olive's seventh CVAC tournament crown in the league's 12-year history.

"I guess it was expected by everbody else that we would win this," said Nordan, who earned tournament MVP honors. "We just came in and did what we had to do."

Hodges (5-1) quietly carried a superb no-hitter into the sixth. The right-hander, who threw one inning in Friday's comeback thriller against Erskine, allowed just four base runners through five innings.

Fielder's choice groundouts erased two potential Anderson runs in the second and third innings. Hodges retired eight consecutive batters after the third-inninig fielder's choice.

"I didn't stress about it, got strike one (on the hitter) and worked from there," said Hodges.

Anderson's hitters had trouble connecting on Hodges' fastball and when they fell behind in the count, he usually got them to swing freely -- and early -- against either his slider or a change-up down in the zone.

Hodges fanned eight of the 25 batters he faced and induced six groundouts.

"I just know if I go out and execute, I don't expect to give up hits and runs," said the confident Hodges. "I just want to do the best I can and keep my team in the game."

Anderson center fielder Josh Harrison foiled Hodges' no-hitter with a flare single into shallow left field. Hodges sandwiched an infield pop-up between two walks, which loaded the bases for clean-up hitter John MacWhite.

MacWhite slapped a single back up the middle to pull Anderson within 5-2. Mount Olive first baseman Erik Lovett single-handedly turned an inning-ending double play to help Hodges escape any further damage.

"The fifth inning is where he (Hodges) starts getting the ball up a little bit," said MOC head coach Carl Lancaster. "We were just really thrilled that he got five innings of shutout baseball. He was doing a heckuva job.

"We had already planned the next inning, with their left-handers coming up, to get Curles out there."

After Mount Olive boosted its lead to 9-2, Anderson loaded the bases in the sixth on two hits and an infield error. Curles took over and gave up an RBI sacrifice fly to Harrison.

Anderson (29-31-1) wouldn't score again. Curles retired nine of 10 batters he faced and Mount Olive claimed its eighth straight win in CVAC tournament play.

"I love when relievers come in and bail you out," said a grinning Hodges. "That's good stuff, especially for old Curley."

Lovett helped Mount Olive build an early five-run lead. The junior first baseman provided an RBI single in the first inning and slugged a solo home run -- his first in tournament play -- in the third inning.

Nordan and catcher Jason Sherrer also drove in runs during that span.

Mount Olive outscored its four opponents 48-11 and committed just two errors defensively in 352/3 innings. The No. 18-ranked Trojans claimed back-to-back CVAC tournament championships for the first time since winning three straight from 1997-99.

"We played well and swung the bats throughout the tournament," said Lancaster. "I just hate to see all these kids leave."

Anderson 000 002 100 -- 3 4 1

Mount Olive 201 114 10x -- 10 14 1

Leading hitters -- Anderson -- John MacWhite 1-4, 2 RBI; Josh Harrison 1-3, RBI. Mount Olive -- David Cooper 2-3, 2B; Stephen Nordan 3-4, 2B, HR, 4 RBI; Erik Lovett 2-4, HR, 2 RBI; Scott Houin 3-5, 2 2Bs, HR, RBI.

DP -- Anderson 1, Mount Olive 1. LOB -- Anderson 6, Mount Olive 10. SF -- Sherrer, Harrison. SB -- Cooper, Williams.



Pitts (L, 6-4) 32/3 7 4 4 3 3

Welch 2 4 4 4 1 1

Lovvorn 0 1 1 1 2 0

Yeargin 21/3 2 1 1 1 1

Mount Olive

Hodges (W, 5-1) 6 3 3 2 3 8

Curles 3 1 0 0 1 3

HBP -- by Hodges (Johnson).

T -- 2:50. A -- 300.