04/25/08 — Nation's top Division II team bangs out 20 hits

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Nation's top Division II team bangs out 20 hits

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 25, 2008 1:49 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Alex Vertcnik delivered Mount Olive's lone hit during the first three innings against Virginia State University on Thursday afternoon.

His teammates finally caught the hitting bug in the fourth inning.

The No. 1-ranked Trojans exploded for 20 runs on 19 hits during their next five at-bats and pummeled Virginia State 20-0 on the Scarborough Field diamond. It was a rematch of last year's opening-round contest in the NCAA Division II South Atlantic Regional.

"Hitting is contagious," said a smiling Vertcnik.

Eight of nine starters contributed at least one or more hits in Mount Olive's second-highest, single-game scoring effort of the season. The Trojans earned their 10th win over VSU since 2002 and improved to 19-0 overall against Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association schools during the same period.

VSU starter Jeff Shelton, who threw against the Trojans in the regional last season, retired nine of 11 batters in the first three innings. The right-hander induced several pop-ups and benefited from an inning-ending double play in the third.

"His fastball is sneaky because his breaking ball is so good," said MOC head coach Carl Lancaster. "He locates well and if they had left him in there, we would have had some problems. But, I felt like we'd get to him after awhile."

The Trojans did in the fourth.

Vertcnik (2-for-2) crushed a lead-off double down the right-field line and moved to third on Josh Harrison's base knock in the same direction. Jason Sherrer (3-for-4, 5 RBI) followed with the first of two, two-run singles to put Mount Olive on the board.

"Once everybody starts seeing some pitches and stick to their approach, we're a very dangerous team," said Vertcnik. "Once we get some good looks, we crush the ball."


Sherrer supplied his second two-run single in the fifth inning. Rich Racobaldo (3-for-4, 4 RBI) stroked a two-run homer, his seventh of the season, in a six-run, sixth-inning outburst.

Mount Olive (47-4 overall) continued its torrid scoring pace with a two-run seventh, six-run eighth. Sherrer, senior first baseman Erik Lovett and Racobaldo combined for 15 RBI on the afternoon. Lovett smacked his team-leading 14th homer in the eighth, while Sherrer leads Vertcnik 69-68 for the team RBI lead.

"We've just got to get over that hump in the game where we bring out the intensity earlier in the game," said Vertcnik. "Once we get going, it's a big thing to stay disciplined on (plate) approach and pitch selection. We did a real good job today."

The offensive barrage overshadowed an outstanding seven-inning stint by Anthony Hernandez. The right-hander, in just his second start, threw 15 first-pitch strikes to 25 batters.

Hernandez (2-0) scattered four hits, posted three strikeouts and retired eight of the final 10 batters he faced. It was his first mound win of the season in 13 appearances.

"I know I can't overpower people, so I have to get ahead in the count, try to throw strikes," said Hernandez. "My changeup was working pretty good today and I could spot my fastball. That combination really helped me out a lot.

"I don't strike a whole lot of people out and I let my defense work. They did pretty good behind me today."

Mount Olive did not commit an error defensively.

Bullpen mates Craig Beasley and Thomas Newsome provided two innings of no-hit, two-strikeout relief.

The Trojans, winners of 31 home games this season, conclude regular-season play with a three-game weekend series against Armstrong Atlantic State (Ga.) University. The teams will play single game Saturday at 7 p.m. and a doubleheader on Sunday.