03/31/08 — Vertcnik posts 'hat trick' vs. Coker College

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Vertcnik posts 'hat trick' vs. Coker College

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on March 31, 2008 1:48 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Fans donned their heavy winter jackets, earmuffs and huddled under blankets to watch No. 1-ranked Mount Olive play on a chilly, rainy day against Coker (S.C.) College.

Alex Vertcnik made the trip worth battling the frigid conditions.

The right fielder mashed three home runs as Mount Olive prevailed 17-4 on a soggy Scarborough Field diamond Sunday afternoon. His multiple-homer outburst tied the single-game record set by Stevie Parrish.

"I have been going through a little bit of a slump the last week or two, so I was just trying to stay patient and drive the ball," said Vertcnik, who has five home runs this season.

Vertcnik's first round-tripper plated Erik Lovett and Jason Sherrer, which gave Mount Olive (36-4 overall) a 3-0 lead after one inning. But the Trojans knew more run production was critical after losing a high-scoring, one-run affair on Saturday.

"We let the first game yesterday (Saturday) get away from us, and we didn't play well, but that's baseball I guess," said MOC head coach Carl Lancaster. "Today, the guys came out swinging, and we didn't make any errors which really helped."

Coker answered with a four-run, third-inning rally. Catcher Julio Gomez delivered a bases-clearing double to put the Cobras in front 4-3.

The Trojans responded.

Sherrer ripped a two-run homer and Vertcnik followed with his second blast. The hit parade continued and finally ended when Lovett, the reigning Daktronics Division II player of the year, smacked his 11th round-tripper -- a towering, two-run shot which cleared the lights in right field.

The seven-run cushion gave Trojans hurler Michael Williams some confidence. The left-hander held the Cobras scoreless the remainder of the game, and Mount Olive swept its sixth Conference Carolinas series of the season.

"Michael did a good job. He got in some trouble early, but settled down and made some nice pitches," Lancaster said. "We wanted to extend him and get his pitch count up, and we were able to do that with the lead."

Vertcnik completed his home run "hat trick" in the seventh when he banged a Matt Long offering off the scoreboard. The grand-slam shot gave Vertcnik a career-best seven RBI.

"I really wasn't thinking home run in any of my at-bats," Vertcnik said. "The thing I will take from today is knowing that I shouldn't press even when things might not be going right."

Lancaster also acknowledged Vertcnik's career day at the plate.

"I wish he would have had a chance to break the record," said Lancaster. "But we did not want to get anybody hurt in these conditions, and when the rain started picking up, it was time to call it."

Officials halted the game after 5 1/2 innings.

Mount Olive takes a break from league action for its annual exhibition contest against Carolina League Single A affiliate Kinston on Tuesday evening. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. at historic Grainger Stadium.

The Trojans resume their Conference Carolinas schedule Friday at nationally-ranked Erskine (S.C.) College. The teams will play a doubleheader beginning at noon, with a single game slated for Saturday.