05/16/07 — Well-rested Trojans anxious to play for real

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Well-rested Trojans anxious to play for real

By Rob Craig
Published in Sports on May 16, 2007 1:48 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Camping at the beach, Putt-Putt, Frisbee golf and water balloons.

Mount Olive has had plenty of time to enjoy the finer things in life during its break of nearly three weeks in between games.

It was back on April 28 that the Trojans swept a double-header from Chowan. Since that time the No. 6 ranked Trojans have been practicing and having a little fun to get ready for Thursday's date with Virginia State in the South Atlantic Regional at Grainger Stadium in Kinston.

The scenario is much like last season when the Trojans had a long layoff before dropping two games at the regional.

"It hasn't been as bad since we knew we were going," said 2007 CVAC coach of the year Carl Lancaster. "We can't do anything about our schedule, it is what it is."

The Trojan's powerful lineup -- which batted .350 with 87 home runs collectively -- has tried to stay sharp using a variety of techniques.

"Everyone's been hitting, a little bit extra on their own," said first-team all-CVAC selection Dustin Richardson. "We've been doing a lot of fundamental stuff in the mornings, then intrasquad games. Being able to hit off our own guys has been a big plus for us since I think we've got some of the best pitchers."

While the time off could affect the Trojans' swings, Lancaster won't use that as an excuse for any hitting failures that may occur.

"Anytime you take this amount of time off you have concerns about your hitters," he said. "The competition is going to be improved and it's going to be much tougher so I'm not going to blame anything on the time off. We aren't going to make excuses.

"The way I look at it is we have had a great season -- even if we don't win another game."

The time off from pitching situations actually concerns Lancaster the more than hitting. While hitters may lose their timing, pitchers can lose the edge of pitching in tight situations.

Pitching with the game on the line cannot be generated in a practice situation, leaving Lancaster to only wonder what affects the layoff has on his staff.

Despite the concerns, Lancaster is confident his veteran team of 27 upper-classmen won't have too many ill-effects from the time away.

"The reason we've been good this year is because we have talented players with experience," he said. "That's what makes you good. We have a team with a lot of upper classmen that are in key roles for you, that are not only good players, but have been there and done that before."

Going off of last year's disappointing loss in the regionals, Mount Olive has become a little wiser from the experience.

"We know what to expect and what's expected of us," said second team All-CVAC selection Josh Carter. "This year we're going in as the favorite and we feel like we are the top team. We know what we're going into this time rather than walking in and trying to play for something that we haven't even understood what we're playing for."

The 2007 CVAC player of the year and former Southern Wayne standout Erik Lovett was red-shirted during the 2006 season with a torn ACL. He is perhaps most anxious to take the field on Thursday.

"I was real glad I stayed healthy this year," said Lovett. "Last year, that hurt. You never know when it's going to end."

With a roster littered with players from Wayne County and the surrounding areas, the excitement of playing in front of friends and family in Kinston only adds to the Trojans confidence.

"It's a huge advantage," said Lovett. "I'm sure we'll have a good turnout at Kinston. That helps out a lot when you're got fans back there supporting you."

With confidence high and the team relaxed, expectations are for the Trojans to make their first ever trip to the Division II World Series.

"I would love to go to the world series because I'm in the latter stages of my career and it would be a thrill to get to go at the Division II level," said Lancaster, who has previously made the trip at the NAIA level with Mount Olive. "It would be a good thing because of the number of kids we've got graduating this year. It would just be fitting for them to go out that way."

Listening to the players at Mount Olive speak, there's no doubting their confidence coming into Thursday night's game.

"We proved to the other teams last year that we can play a little bit," said Richardson. "Some teams expect us to be good, but I don't think they've seen the real Mount Olive College Trojans yet."