05/20/08 — Regional notebook

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Regional notebook

By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on May 20, 2008 2:01 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Three Mount Olive pitchers threw complete games during the NCAA Division II South Atlantic Regional.

None proved more impressive than Kyle Jones' four-hitter as the Trojans faced elimination against USC-Aiken on Sunday afternoon. The East Carolina transfer, making his first-ever start, had thrown just 18 innings total in 13 previous appearances.

Jones flirted with a perfect game for four-plus innings and ended up permitting just four hits.

"His (outing) was the biggest for us. That game was a must-win," said Mount Olive head coach Carl Lancaster. "He saved our bullpen. It was unbelievable that he went out and did the job he did."

Jones (3-0) faced 32 batters and logged five strikeouts in the scorebook. The Pacers' two runs were unearned.

"The only thing I was conscious of was locating my fastball because they were mainly right-handed hitters," said Jones. "Early on, we were trying to establish the outside corner and just keep hitting that spot ... be consistent. From the beginning of the game, it was working."

"Everything just fell place into place with ground balls, and a couple of strikeouts here and there."

You gotta Lovett

Erik Lovett didn't forget last year's nightmarish regional.

The Daktronics national player of the year couldn't solve opposing pitchers and managed just one hit in five games.

"Last year was not a good feeling," said Lovett, a Dudley native.

What a difference one year makes.

Lovett collected 10 hits and crushed three home runs, including towering shots against Columbus State and USC-Aiken. He shared regional-high, RBI honors (9) with third baseman Rich Racobaldo.

The senior first baseman heads into the College World Series with 72 RBI and a team-leading 17 home runs. He has a school-record 44 homers in his career.

"Last year, I tried to pull everything," said Lovett. "This year, I just hit the ball where it was pitched."

Remembering "18"

Joseph Westbrook's key hit helped Mount Olive stay within striking distance of USC-Aiken in the decisive, winner-take-all game on Sunday evening.

The freshman outfielder stroked a two-out hit and David Cooper followed with a shot over the left fielder's head as the No. 1-ranked Trojans rallied in the middle innings against the third-seeded Pacers.

"Last weekend when we played some scrimmage games, he was huge for us and showed maturity for a young guy," said Lancaster. "Westbrook really came on and battled all year."

But he didn't join the celebration Monday.

Westbrook returned home to Edenton to attend his grandmother's funeral. His teammates hung his No. 18 jersey in the dugout before the conclusion of the suspended game.

"Last night, he met with the guys and told them," said Lancaster. "I told him to go because we are family and family comes first. Although, he wasn't out there (today), we were thinking about him."

Westbrook played in four games, started one and batted .400 during the regional. He drove in one run.