01/06/08 — Trojans ranked No. 6 in preseason

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Trojans ranked No. 6 in preseason

By MOC Sports Information
Published in Sports on January 6, 2008 2:19 AM

MOC Sports Information

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive College, which came within one game of reaching the NCAA Division II College World Series a year ago, is ranked No. 6 in the 2008 Collegiate Baseball Division II preseason poll.

The Trojans, who posted a program-record 49 wins last spring, collected 542 points in the poll -- 44 behind fifth-ranked Abilene Christian (Tex.) and six ahead of Franklin Pierce (N.H.) and Tusculum (Tenn.).

Defending national champion Tampa (Fla.) is the preseason No. 1 pick. Columbus State (Ga.), which defeated Mount Olive twice in the South Atlantic Regional, is No. 2.

The Trojans won the Carolinas Virginia Athletics Conference regular-season title with a 20-3 worksheet, and repeated as the tournament champions. They played host to last year's regional, becoming the first team in school history in any sport to host an NCAA championship.

Mount Olive won its first three games by a combined score of 15-2, including a one-hit shutout by Casey Hodges against nationally ninth-ranked Georgia College and State. The Trojans fell to Columbus State twice on the final day and were denied their first-ever trip to the national finals.

Leading the Trojans this season will be senior first baseman Erik Lovett, the reigning Daktronics NCAA Division II national player of the year. The Dudley native hit .403 last season and finished among the top 10 in the nation with 21 home runs, 80 RBI and an .810 slugging percentage.

Lovett's home run, RBI totals and slugging percentage were all school records.

Hodges posted a 7-1 record last year with a 2.08 earned run average. He earned all-tournament honors at the South Atlantic Regional and CVAC Tournament.

Along with seniors Hodges and Lovett, the Trojans also return two-time all-South Atlantic Region shortstop David Cooper. The senior is already Mount Olive's all-time leader in career triples and holds single-season records in stolen bases and runs scored.

Mount Olive also brings back senior catcher Jason Sherrer, who ranked fifth on the team in home runs with seven. Sherrer's two-out game-tying RBI-single in the top of the ninth forced extra innings in the Trojans' 10-inning victory over Armstrong Atlantic State in the second round of last year's regional.