Conference Carolinas champs clobber Crusaders
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 14, 2008 1:49 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Clinging to a three-run lead and sputtering on defense, Mount Olive relied on its bread and better -- offense -- to turn back in-state rival Belmont Abbey on Sunday afternoon.
Jesse Lancaster slugged a three-run homer and the No. 1-ranked Trojans tallied 15 unanswered runs in a 21-5 rout of the Crusaders at Scarborough Field. Mount Olive (40-4 overall) put the finishing touches on its second consecutive Conference Carolinas regular-season title, and completed a three-game sweep of Abbey.
The top-seeded Trojans open conference tournament play Thursday afternoon against either eighth-seeded St. Andrews or ninth-seeded Coker at Fleming Stadium in Wilson. First pitch is 4 p.m.
"We swung the bats well today," said MOC head coach Carl Lancaster.
Every Trojan starter logged at least one hit against five Belmont Abbey hurlers, who combined to throw 213 pitches. Jesse Lancaster batted 3-for-5 with two homers and a career-high six RBI. Rich Racobaldo added three hits, including his sixth homer of the season, and four RBI.
Jason Sherrer and Josh Harrison contributed three hits apiece. Dylan Holton, Alex Vertcnik and Anthony Williams each cranked out two hits.
"We were very pleased with our offense," said coach Lancaster, who has guided MOC to seven regular-season championships since 1996.
Belmont Abbey grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first on Carlos Vasquez's two-out, one-strike RBI single. Mount Olive answered with a four-run rally, including Jesse Lancaster's first homer -- a two-run shot over the left-center field fence.
"He got behind 2-0 (in the count), and I told myself to stay short and not pop it up," said Lancaster. "I got a good piece (of it)."
Mount Olive added two second-inning runs and David Cooper stroked a two-out, RBI triple into right center field in the third inning.
After a scoreless fourth, the hit parade began.
Over the next four innings, the Trojans sent 31 batters to the plate and quickly depleted the Crusaders' bullpen. Jesse Lancaster mashed his second homer during that stretch as Mount Olive cruised to its to 16th series victory against Belmont Abbey since 2002.
"He had been throwing a lot of off-speed stuff," said Lancaster of Abbey right-hander Trey Summerlin. "I had guys in scoring position and I really wanted a sac fly. The wind blew it (out) for me."
The season-best, 22-hit output overshadowed a shaky defensive effort, especially during the first five innings. Although the Trojans didn't commit an error, they allowed two runners to reach base on strikeouts and miscommunicated several times on routine plays.
"Defensively, I was not pleased with what we did," said coach Lancaster. "You can get away with that against teams down in their pitching, but when you get to regionals, you can't make those same mistakes and expect to win against good arms.
"I don't know if it was as much defense or where we just weren't paying attention to what situation it was ... not knowing what we're going to do with the ball when we get it."
Mount Olive turned three double plays -- one each behind starter Ryan Schlecht, left-handed reliever Paul Novicki and right-hander Thomas Newsome. Schlecht permitted three runs (all earned) on eight hits in a five-inning stint and improved to a program-best 11-0 this season.
Novicki and Kyle Jones combined for three innings of scoreless relief.
The Trojans (21-1 CC) swept their eight conference series for the second straight year. Since 2006, including regular-season non-conference and tournament contests, Mount Olive is a mind-boggling 55-5 against league opposition.
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