05/27/08 — Another comeback: Harrison's ninth-inning single caps four-run rally

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Another comeback: Harrison's ninth-inning single caps four-run rally

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on May 27, 2008 3:46 PM

SAUGET, Ill. -- The self-proclaimed comeback kids strike again.

No. 1-ranked Mount Olive College, down to its final three outs, turned in another stirring ninth-inning rally Monday afternoon. Josh Harrison's walk-off single capped a four-run uprising as the Trojans rallied past Ouachita (Ark.) Baptist 6-5 in their opening-round, NCAA Division II College World Series contest Monday.

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The Trojans face Ashland, a 6-5 winner over two-time defending champion Tampa (Fla.), at 7:30 (EDT) today.

Stormy weather suspended the contest late Sunday evening with No. 4-ranked Ouachita Baptist leading 4-2. The Tigers extended their advantage to 5-2 when play resumed, but couldn't prevent Mount Olive (55-6 overall) from staging another memorable comeback.

Dylan Holton started the Trojan ninth with a lead-off single, but was gunned down at second base on David Cooper's fielder's choice groundout. Cooper barely beat the throw to first base. His display of hustle was "the key to the entire game," said MOC head coach Carl Lancaster.

Ouachita hurler Jerry Helferich plunked Jesse Lancaster and Alex Vertcnik, who represented the tying run, stepped into the box. Vertcnik drew a walk to load the bases for catcher Jason Sherrer.

Sherrer, the Conference Carolinas player of the year, launched a two-run single into left center field. After a brief discussion by the umpires, Sherrer was awarded second base due to interference while rounding first.

Helferich intentionally walked Erik Lovett and Rich Racobaldo strode toward the batter's box. The South Atlantic Regional player of the year had to wait for his first pitch, however, as Ouachita Baptist went to its bullpen.

Racobaldo drew a bases-loaded, RBI walk to forge a 5-5 deadlock.

That set the table for Harrison.

Expecting a possible squeeze-bunt play, the Tigers' infield played on the grass with the intention of gunning down the winning run at home. Harrison ripped a pitch down the first-base line and pinch-runner Mike Kicia, who replaced Sherrer, crossed home for the game-winning run.

"Any time you go up there in that situation, you want to hit a ball into the outfield and that's all I was trying to do," said Harrison. "I was fortunate to hit it where I did, because coach told me it wasn't too far from being caught at first for a double play."

Despite the adversity, the Trojans remained confident.

"I told (Josh) when we were standing in the batter's box that if I didn't get to do it, he would get to win it," said Racobaldo. "When I didn't get to win it, I knew it was in his hands."

Vertcnik echoed Racobaldo's enthusiasm.

"There really wasn't any doubt that we could get it done," said Vertcnik. "We have been winning games like this all season, so we knew we had a chance."

Lancaster pointed out the Tigers' effort that was lost in the wild post-game celebration.

"We were not the best team when this game started yesterday, fortunately we were able to come back today, and today I guess we were the best team," said Lancaster. "I have to give our guys a lot of credit for battling some tough conditions and a very good Ouachita team."

Mount Olive reliever Patrick Ball retired the final five Ouachita batters and earned the mound win.