05/13/08 — Trojans taking new approach

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Trojans taking new approach

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on May 13, 2008 3:30 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- One can never have too much of a good thing.

Unless that one thing is time.

Mount Olive has been enjoying nearly a three-week break before the NCAA Division II South Atlantic Regional begins Thursday at Scarborough Field. But this time, the Trojans approached their siesta in a different manner.

Last year, Mount Olive played intrasquad scrimmages after winning the final Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference tournament championship. The team lost its chemistry, the players were bored and the effects were obvious in the regional.

The Trojans barely mustered enough offense to reach the championship against Columbus State (Ga.) University. And once they faced CSU, their offensive troubles continued as they manufactured just one run in 18 innings.

No one has forgotten that disappointing ending.

"It got a little monotonous for our guys," said assistant coach Rob Watt of the layoff. "It was tough to get motivated and to give 100 percent when you're just practicing against each other since the fall. We came from such a high from winning the conference tournament and then you have to wait."

Mount Olive used a different strategy this time.

After winning the inaugural Conference Carolinas tournament and earning their third consecutive postseason bid, the Trojans had regular-season and exhibition games dotting their schedule.

They swept doubleheaders from Chowan University and Armstrong Atlantic State (Ga.), and blew out Virginia State University by 20 runs.

Mount Olive (49-5 overall) scheduled exhibition games against perennial JUCO power Pitt Community College, South Atlantic Conference champion Tusculum (Tenn.) and in-state foe Catawba.

The change has kept the players fresh, focused and relaxed.

"This year I think we're having fun," said second baseman Anthony Williams. "Last year it was kind of a drag to come out here and play against each other the whole time. I'm having fun right now. When you're doing something you love, it makes a big difference."

The break has helped heal the Trojans' pitching staff. Mount Olive's hurlers have compiled a 3.05 earned run average in 450-plus innings of work. They've been one integral part of the backbone to the Trojans' success this spring.

Ryan Schlecht, who has a team-leading 12 victories on the mound, welcomed the layoff. It gave the Conference Carolinas pitcher of the year a chance to rest.

"I was getting kind of tired there at the end so this time off has been real nice," said Schlecht. "I've had a little over a week off without throwing. It's been real nice for my arm and my legs."

But don't think the Trojans don't remember coming within one game of reaching the Division II College World Series last season. The break has also stoked that fire of desire.

"Last year we went into the regional and we won our first three games," said Williams. "We went into the championship game, and we lost two and we were done. That's all the motivation we need."