Trojans ready for Flying Fleet
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 3, 2008 1:50 PM
"Hit me with your best shot."
The Pat Benatar track could be Mount Olive's theme song this season. No matter who the Trojan baseball team faces, it always seems to take the opponent's best shot.
Carl Lancaster doesn't expect this weekend to be different.
No. 2-ranked Mount Olive plays its most-critical Conference Carolinas series at No. 14-ranked Erskine on Friday and Saturday. Two games separate the rivals in the league standings.
"Everyone who plays us is playing as hard as they possibly can, and Erskine will, too," said Lancaster, who recently notched his 700th career win as MOC's head coach. "They've been waiting for this all year. This is probably the biggest series we've had all year."
Mount Olive (36-4 overall) leads the series 15-8 since 2002, including an 11-7 edge in regular-season meetings. However, they are 3-3 against the Flying Fleet during their last two conference-series trips to Due West.
The Trojans are 12-0 on the road this season.
"There's no doubt we've got to win two games down there to keep us where we want to be with the toughest two series we have left (on our schedule)," said Lancaster. "I feel like the guys know the magnitude of this series and I feel like they'll respond, but I can't predict the future."
Erskine defeated regionally-ranked Augusta State (Ga.) University on Wednesday, while Mount Olive hasn't played since Sunday's 5 1/2-inning rout of Coker (S.C.) College. The Flying Fleet have emerged victorious in 21 of 23 home contests this season.
The week-long rest should help the Trojans' pitching staff.
Ryan Schlect will get the starting nod for Friday's contest. The 6-foot-3 right-hander from Phoenix is 9-0 with a 2.37 ERA. He's thrown three complete games this season and will attempt to shut down a lineup hitting .358 as a team.
Greg Huff leads Erskine with a .413 average, while Chas Anthony is close behind at .406. The duo has combined for 115 hits, 76 RBI and 23 home runs.
"They're going to swing the bat and hopefully our pitching can locate, but if you miss spots with those boys, they can hurt you," said Lancaster. "They try to pull everything and dive in on pitches. We've got to go in hard on their hands and locate on the outer half of the plate.
"If we do that, we'll be fine."
Mount Olive is batting .344 as a team with Jason Sherrer the top hitter at .413. The three-time Conference Carolinas player-of-the-week is tied with Erik Lovett for the team lead in home runs (11) and tied with Alex Vertcnik for RBI (53).
The Trojans have committed just 42 errors in 330 innings, while the Flying Fleet have 62 miscues in 305 innings of work.
Lancaster hopes his team can play a quality series.
"We have not played our best ball the last couple of weeks," said Lancaster. "It's hard to put a finger on it. There are hills and valleys in every season, and we're going through a little lull right now.
"We have to rise to the occasion and play baseball like we were earlier in the year."
The Trojans must deliver their best shot instead.
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