05/21/07 — Mount Olive's NCAA run ends

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Mount Olive's NCAA run ends

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 21, 2007 1:47 PM

KINSTON -- Columbus State prevented Mount Olive College from flexing its offensive muscle on the final day of the NCAA Division II South Atlantic Regional.

The nation's eighth-best pitching staff limited the Trojans to a single run in 18 innings of work on the historic Grainger Stadium diamond Sunday afternoon. Jarrett Coker threw a complete-game, 5-0 shutout in the opener to force a winner-take-all contest in the double-elimination tournament.

In the nightcap, Bryan Kilgore and Johnny Floyd combined for an eight-hitter as Columbus State prevailed 4-1 and punched its ticket to the College World Series. The Cougars clinched their seventh South Atlantic Regional title in school history and first since 2004.

Mount Olive concluded the year with a school-record 49 victories and lost in a regional championship for the second time since moving to Division II in the mid-1990s. The Trojans fell to Kennesaw State (Ga.) in the 1999 final.

"We're just fortunate to come out and beat a very, very good team," said CSU head coach Greg Appleton. "It seems like we had the ball bouncing our way. We had some tremendous performances by a lot of guys on our team, and we're happy to be going back to Montgomery."

Columbus State (48-18 overall) entered the regional with a glowing 2.98 earned run average, which dropped significantly after its two-game sweep of Mount Olive.

Coker (10-3) certainly upheld the Cougars' pitching reputation. The sophomore right-hander notched seven strikeouts and held the Trojans hitless for 4 1/3 innings. Scott Houin ruined Coker's no-hit bid with a two-strike, one-out single to left field in the fifth inning.

Catcher Jason Sherrer followed with a base hit, but both runners remained on base as Coker posted back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning. Coker yielded a sixth-inning double to Stephen Nordan and an eighth-inning single to Josh Harrison.

Coker collected 13 strikeouts and kept the Trojans from capitalizing with runners in scoring position.

"Coker pitched his butt off, made pitch after pitch after pitch," said MOC head coach Carl Lancaster. "I don't think we were complacent at all. He kept us off balance and we couldn't sit on any pitch because he threw all of them for a strike.

"He just pitched well."

Rodney Rutherford put CSU ahead with a solo home run in the second inning. Kurt McKee, named the regional MVP, added RBI singles in the fifth and seventh innings.

Trojan right-hander Judson Smith took the mound loss.

Houin put Mount Olive ahead 1-0 in game two, but the Trojans wouldn't score again.

Kilgore surrendered five hits in four innings and Floyd supplied five innings of three-hit, scoreless relief. The duo combined for seven strikeouts and limited MOC to one hit in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position.

"We didn't the baseball like we're accustomed to hitting," said Lancaster. "You've got to give credit to their pitching, but we're better hitters than what we showed throughout the whole tournament.

"We had some chances, too, and didn't get the clutch hit."

CSU tied the game at 1-1 on a questionable balk call in the fourth inning. McKee singled home the game-winning run and chased right-hander Darrell Ellis from the mound. Reliever Ted Pelech surrendered two earned runs in a two-inning stint and Patrick Ball tossed 3 1/3 innings of one-hit, two-strikeout relief.

The Trojans had glimmers of hope in the eighth and ninth innings. Dustin Richardson reached on a two-out error in the eighth, but was left stranded.

Erik Lovett, the South Atlantic Region player of the year, delivered a one-out single in the ninth. Graham Wooten added a two-out base hit and brought the partisan Mount Olive crowd to its feet.

Floyd fell behind 3-1 in the count to Anthony Williams, but induced a pop-up into foul territory near the Trojans' dugout. Cougar first baseman Billy Howard tracked the ball and caught it near the fence.

CSU players raced from the dugout and piled onto the starters near the pitcher's mound as they celebrated their sixth straight win in a three-day stretch.

Mount Olive's players slowly walked back to the dugout as Trojan fans awarded them with applause and cheers.

"At last year's regional, we knew coming in that we were the underdog," said Nordan. "Being in Kinston was a great opportunity, and it helped out a lot being at home and having the fans here.

"We just got beat. Columbus State was better than us today ... maybe not tomorrow or yesterday, but today, they were better than us."

Game 1

Mount Olive 000 000 000 -- 0 4 1

Columbus St. 010 010 30x -- 5 11 0

Leading hitters -- Mount Olive -- Stephen Nordan 1-3, 2B; Scott Houin 1-3; Jason Sherrer 1-3; Josh Harrison 1-3. Columbus State -- Kurt McKee 2-4, 2 RBi; Billy Howard 2-4; Rodney Rutherford 1-4, HR, RBI; Trent Bianco 3-3, 2B.

LOB -- Mount Olive 5, CSU 4. SF -- Geiger. CS -- McKee.


Mount Olive

Smith (L) 6 2/3 10 5 5 0 6

Curles 1 1/3 1 0 0 0 1

Columbus State

Coker (W) 9 4 0 0 1 13

T -- 2:04.

Game 2

Columbus St. 000 202 000 -- 4 8 1

Mount Olive 100 000 000 -- 1 8 2

Leading hitters -- Columbus State -- Kurt McKee 2-4, 2B, RBI; Billy Howard 1-4, 2 RBI; Trent Bianco 1-4; Brad Bowen 2-3, 3B. Mount Olive -- Dustin Richardson 2-4, 2B; Scott Houin 1-4, RBI; Erik Lovett 2-4, 2B; Graham Wooten 1-1.

DP -- CSU 1. LOB -- CSU 10, Mount Olive 8. SH -- Howard, Richardson, Cooper. SB -- Bowen 2, Houin.


Columbus State

Kilgore 4 6 1 1 1 5

Floyd 5 2 0 0 0 2

Mount Olive

Ellis 3 2/3 5 2 2 2 1

Pelech 2 2 2 2 2 0

Ball 3 1/3 1 0 0 0 2

WP -- Pelech, Ball. BK -- Ellis.

T -- 2:41.