Conference Carolinas baseball: Mount Olive advances to title game
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on April 20, 2008 1:31 PM
WILSON -- Masters of the blowout in the first two rounds of the 2008 Conference Carolinas baseball tournament, Mount Olive took on the role "king of the comeback" on Saturday afternoon.
Anthony Williams' RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning lifted the top-seeded Trojans to a 5-4, come-from-behind win over third-seeded Belmont Abbey in the winners' bracket finals at historic Fleming Stadium.
No. 1-ranked Mount Olive (43-4 overall) rallied from three separate deficits and advanced to face third-seeded Belmont Abbey, which eliminated in-state foe Pfeiffer 6-0, in today's championship at 1 p.m.
"We're a big family," Williams said. "If it was my real family, I would never give up and we all feel the same. With that we come out and play hard, and it's not just me it's everybody. Nobody ever gives up and I love this about my team."
The Crusaders (34-18) took a 4-3 lead in the top of the 10th on Alex Castellanos' solo home run to left-center field off Mount Olive reliever Paul Novicki. Todd Jeffreys relieved Novicki, recorded the final two outs and earned the win after Williams' heroics.
Josh Harrison's RBI triple in the Trojans' half of the 10th tied the game at 4-4. Crusaders skipper Kermit Smith called upon Trey Summerlin, who plunked two Mount Olive batters and loaded the bases.
With rally caps shaking in the Trojans' dugout and fans on their feet, Williams stepped to the plate and lined an 0-1 pitch to right field. Harrison crossed home and the Trojans spilled out onto the field.
Williams, a senior from Williamston, was hitless until his game-winning at-bat.
"All I could do was pray in that situation," Williams said. "I went up there and I knew it was my time. I knew we weren't losing. I had already put up a prayer.
"Coach (Carl Lancaster) told me to lay off the breaking ball ... it stuck in my head and it happened."
Belmont Abbey grabbed a 2-1 lead in the fifth on Tyler McKenzie's two-RBI double. The Trojans' Jesse Lancaster knotted the score one-half inning later when he slid home on a passed ball.
Justin Vasquez put the Crusaders in front 3-2 with a sixth-inning, RBI triple off starter Ryan Schlecht, who was named the Conference Carolinas pitcher of the year. Mount Olive, again, forged another deadlock on Alex Vertcnik's sacrifice fly.
The score stood until the dramatic 10th inning.
Jason Sherrer and Erik Lovett led the Trojans with two hits apiece. Mount Olive had tallied 30 runs on 34 hits in its first two tournament outings, but managed just five runs on 11 hits against Belmont Abbey's staff.
Crusaders starter Michael Raymond permitted three runs (two earned) on eight hits. He walked four Trojan hitters, posted five strikeouts and didn't allow a hit until the third inning.
"Raymond pitched four innings against us last time and he gave up six runs," Mount Olive head coach Carl Lancaster said. "He was really locked in up there today. Kermit can't ask for any more out of his kids."
The Trojans claimed their 11th consecutive tournament victory and 22nd overall since 2000. Mount Olive goes after its third straight tournament championship today and eighth overall in the program's Division II era.
Lancaster said left-hander Michael Williams, a transfer from Francis Marion, will start on the mound today.
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