05/18/07 — Trojans open NCAA play with win

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Trojans open NCAA play with win

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 18, 2007 2:44 PM

KINSTON -- Timing is everything and Mount Olive College couldn't seem to catch a break during opening-round play in the NCAA Division II South Atlantic Regional.

A hit-and-run situation led to Virginia State turning a first-inning triple play and etching its name in the regional record books. A third-inning base-running mistake silenced another possible rally.

Then, VSU profited from a fourth-inning double play to keep Mount Olive from breaking the game open. And right-hander Jeff Shelton notched back-to-back strikeouts, which forced the top-seeded Trojans to leave the bases loaded in the sixth inning.

Despite all those offensive misgivings, No. 6-ranked Mount Olive prevailed 6-1 on a soggy Grainger Stadium diamond Thursday evening. The Trojans face Armstrong Atlantic State (Ga.) University at 3 p.m. today, while sixth-seeded Virginia State met Columbus State (Ga.) University in an elimination-round game this morning.

"Overall, it was a pretty miserable evening -- whether it was the weather or the game," said MOC head coach Carl Lancaster. "It wasn't a lot of fun out there. It was pretty obvious that we've been off three weeks and we were really rusty.

"We took ourselves out of some big innings with blunders on the bases. But we got through it and that's the main thing."

Mount Olive (47-11 overall) won a regional opener for the first time since 2000 and collected just its fourth NCAA tournament victory in 14 outings.

Senior third baseman Stephen Nordan spearheaded the Trojans' 12-hit attack with a 3-for-4, one-RBI effort. David Cooper, Erik Lovett and Josh Carter contributed two hits apiece.

Mount Olive put a total of 21 runners aboard in seven of eight innings and stranded nine, including six in scoring position

"We really had the opportunity to put up a ton of runs, we really did," said Lancaster. "We kind of caved in during critical situations and throughout the year we haven't done that.

"You've got to give credit to the kid (Shelton) on the mound. He threw a pretty good game against us."

Shelton (6-7) allowed six earned runs on 11 hits in seven innings of work. He threw a perfect second inning after the rare triple play and finished with five strikeouts.

A sophomore transfer from St. Andrews, Shelton surrendered six hits -- including two doubles and a triple -- in the first four innings combined. But the frustrated Trojans managed just three runs.

"Most of the guys struggled a bit tonight, but I think it was more pitch selection," said Cooper. "When we got a pitch we could hammer, we let them get away with it. (Those pitches) are usually when we take over the game and score a lot of runs."

Shelton nearly shelved his fastball after the first four innings and used more off-speed pitches -- a changeup and curveball -- as the game progressed. Once Mount Olive rediscovered its timing at the plate, Shelton found himself trailing 5-0 after six innings of play.

Meanwhile, Virginia State (22-32) never got the timely hit. The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association champions left 12 runners on base, including seven in scoring position.

Mount Olive right-hander Phillip Pennington carried a scoreless outing into the seventh. The senior lost his shutout bid when he issued a bases-loaded walk to Andrew Holt.

"We just left too many on base," said VSU head coach Merrill Morgan. "We had great pitching and great defense, but we couldn't get the big hit."

Lancaster hopes to see a different team today. The Trojans lost three of four contests against the No. 18-ranked Pirates during the first weekend of February.

"We're a better team than what we showed tonight and I just hope we can get it figured out by tomorrow," said Lancaster.

Virginia St. 000 000 100 -- 1 6 0

Mount Olive 001 211 10x -- 6 12 3

Leading hitters -- Virginia State -- Merv Woodlin 2-4, Dewayne White 2-4. Mount Olive -- David Cooper 2-4, RBI; Stephen Nordan 3-4, 2B, RBI; Erik Lovett 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Josh Carter 2-3, 2B.

DP -- VSU 1, Mount Olive 1. TP -- VSU 1. LOB -- VSU 12, Mount Olive 9. SH -- Woodlin. SB -- Knight, Cooper 2.


Virginia State

Shelton (L) 7 11 6 6 4 5

Cornett 1 1 0 0 0 0

Mount Olive

Pennington (W) 6 2/3 5 1 1 5 2

Hernandez 2 1/3 1 0 0 0 0

HBP -- by Shelton (Carter), by Cornett (Sherrer), by Cornett (Cooper).

T -- 2:34.