Two, three-run shots wake up Mount Olive offense in middle innings
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 11, 2008 1:48 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Hitless with runners in scoring position through three innings, Mount Olive needed some offensive firepower.
The Trojans looked no further than to Erik Lovett, the reigning Daktronics Division II player of the year. And the senior first baseman certainly didn't disappoint on a blustery Sunday afternoon.
Lovett cranked two, three-run homers during a two-inning stretch as Mount Olive out-slugged Lenoir-Rhyne 14-10 at Scarborough Field. The Trojans completed a weekend sweep of the Bears, who departed winless in six outings against Conference Carolinas teams this season.
What began as a pitcher's duel turned into a nightmarish struggle by each team's respective bullpen. LRC right-hander Justin Crowell yielded three hits and coerced the No. 3-ranked Trojans to bat 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
"I thought their starter did a great job against us," said MOC head coach Carl Lancaster. "He kept putting his change-up and curveball in there, got ahead in the counts and we just didn't square up a lot on him.
"You have to give that kid credit."
Mount Olive starter and southpaw Michael Williams surrendered a second-inning, solo homer to Evan Taylor. But the Francis Marion transfer settled down and retired eight of the next 10 batters he faced in two-plus innings.
The Bears collected back-to-back hits in the fifth, but Williams (1-0) responded with consecutive strikeouts and an inning-ending groundout.
By then, the Trojans led 5-1.
Lovett's first round-tripper, a towering shot over the 400-foot mark in center field, extended Mount Olive's provided a four-run cushion in the fourth inning. It was Lovett's first homer of the season and just the fourth overall for Mount Olive, which ripped a school-record 87 dingers in 2007.
"It was finally good to start hitting the ball," said the left-handed hitting Lovett, who collected six RBI. "I've been way out in front and pulling off of stuff. They've been telling me to hit to left field. I waited back ... it was down the middle ...
"We needed some runs right then. We weren't getting it done with runners in scoring position ... just rolling over balls and not moving guys over on base."
Lovett's second smash got a little help from the high winds swirling throughout the park. What looked to be a pop fly deep down the left field line turned into a three-run homer, and highlighted a seven-run, fifth-inning outburst.
"Thank goodness for the wind today," chuckled Lovett. "Honestly, I thought it was a sac fly and it just kept going. I'll take it."
The multiple-run blast proved crucial.
Working with a 10-run lead, the Trojan bullpen strained to keep the advantage. Lenoir-Rhyne benefited from an infield error, which ignited a seven-run rally. Anthony Sulley supplied an RBI single and Taylor delivered a two-strike, two-RBI single as the Bears erupted from their hibernation.
Zach Glass contributed a pinch-hit, two-RBI single to pull Lenoir-Rhyne within 12-9.
"I never can recall a Mount Olive team giving up seven runs in an inning," said Lancaster. "Our bullpen, I think, just came out with the attitude this was a piece of cake with this big lead.
"God-dang it, we didn't get it done and I wasn't real happy about that. I feel like we lost, I really do. Even though we put up 14 runs, we're hanging on to win. You shouldn't have do that with the pitchers we've got."
Mount Olive, which pounded out 35 runs in the three-game series, scored twice in the eighth. Trojan reliever Pat Ball allowed a ninth-inning run, but preserved the team's sixth win in seven games this season.
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