2 down, 2 to go: Lovett's home run arouses MOC offense
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on May 28, 2008 1:51 PM
SAUGET, Ill. -- The Trojans' offensive power is back.
No. 1-ranked Mount Olive College used a seven-run, fifth-inning outburst to defeat Ashland University 18-7 in their second-round, NCAA Division II College World Series contest.
It was the Trojans' 28th come-from-behind win this season.
Despite the final score, Mount Olive (56-6 overall) had its hands full for four innings.
Ashland (40-17) grabbed a 1-0 lead on Jacob Petkac's RBI single up the middle off Mount Olive starter Ryan Schlecht.
The Trojans responded with four runs on four hits during their first at-bat. Rich Racobaldo was moved from the fifth spot in the lineup to the No. 2 hole, a change that immediately paid dividends. The junior third baseman blasted an RBI double of the fence in his first plate appearance.
Despite working with a three-run advantage, Schlecht never settled into a groove and consistently missed the strike zone with his fastball. The right-hander allowed single runs in both the second and third innings, and was replaced in the fourth after surrendering the lead on Petkac's two-run homer.
"Ryan did not have his best stuff tonight," said MOC head coach Carl Lancaster. "He has been great for us all year, but tonight he couldn't find the zone with any of his pitches."
Trailing 7-5, the Trojans needed an offensive spark.
Erik Lovett answered the call.
After Racobaldo reached safely on an error and Jason Sherrer drew a walk, Lovett strode to the plate with an opportunity to revive his team. The MOC first baseman hammered the first pitch he saw over the fence in the deepest part of the ballpark.
"I wasn't thinking about hitting it out," said Lovett. "I was just looking for a pitch I could handle and I knew that their pitcher had come inside on me a couple times in the previous at-bat, so I was ready."
Leading 8-7, the floodgates opened for Mount Olive one inning later.
The Trojans sent nine men to the plate before making an out en route to seven runs and an emotional knockout punch. Designated hitter Joseph Westbrook delivered the big blow in the frame, a three-run homer that sent Ashland right fielder Jeff Yates flipping over the short fence.
"Erik's home run absolutely changed the momentum of the game, and then Paul came in and shut the door for us," said Lancaster. "He did a great job locating his pitches and came through with some big strikeouts."
Mount Olive relief pitcher Paul Novicki was saddled with the task of preserving an already over-worked bullpen as the Trojans led 15-7. Novicki responded with 5 2/3 innings of near-flawless pitching.
Novicki was the ninth Trojan pitcher used in the first two games of the CWS.
"I didn't realize that the offense was going to come through like that," said Novicki. "But once we got ahead, I knew I had to try to save the bullpen a little bit."
The victory was Mount Olive's third straight win to start and end on different days of the week. The teams started play at 8:54 CDT on Tuesday and the game ended at 12:09 this morning.
Mount Olive gets a much-needed day of rest before facing either Central Missouri or Shippensburg (Pa.) University at 2:30 p.m. (CDT) on Thursday. Ashland faced Ouachita (Ark.) Baptist in an elimination-round contest today.
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