06/03/08 — Mount Olive is no longer known for just pickles

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Mount Olive is no longer known for just pickles

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 3, 2008 1:59 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Literary master Wendy Wasserstein once penned the phrase "Don't live down to expectations. Go out there and do something remarkable."

The Mount Olive College baseball team certainly did.

Escorted by the Spring Creek marching band, the Trojans received a heroes' welcome as they entered Scarborough Field on Monday evening. A throng of enthusiastic fans chanted "M-O-C! M-O-C!" and displayed signs congratulating Mount Olive for winning the NCAA Division II College World Series championship two days ago.

The No. 1-ranked Trojans defeated Ouachita (Ark.) Baptist 6-2 on Saturday and became just the third North Carolina school to claim a College World Series title. Wake Forest won the 1955 Division I crown, while N.C. Wesleyan emerged the Division III king in 1989 and 1999.

"Words can't describe this. It's really unbelievable," said Goldsboro native Airlon Vinson, who red-shirted this season. "(David) Cooper said it right on the way home. We're excited and we're ready to get back home, but it never sets in.

"As soon as we won it, it was a good feeling. But nothing sets in until you have your family and friends coming up to you, and telling you congratulations. That's what it's all about."

An estimated 1,000 fans filled the Scarborough Field seats and dugouts beyond capacity to help celebrate the school's achievement. The sun-soaked festivities were organized by the Town of Mount Olive, the Mount Olive Chamber of Commerce and Mount Olive College.

"This is a great day for Mount Olive College and a great day for our community," said Mount Olive Mayor Ray McDonald, who introduced a proclamation documenting the team's feat. "The town of Mount Olive really has reaped the benefits of this team's success. It takes a lot of talent to put that many men together, and come up with a national championship team."

The Trojans compiled an incredible 58-6 record overall and won 24 of their final 26 games. The two defeats occurred in the Conference Carolinas tournament and South Atlantic Regional.

Mount Olive is just the third school in Conference Carolinas history to win a national championship. Limestone has two men's lacrosse titles, while Barton reigned supreme on the 2007 men's basketball scene.

As former players stood along the fence down the first- and third-base sidelines, 22-year Mount Olive head coach Carl Lancaster described the celebration as a "humbling" experience. While he thanked the dignitaries in attendance, Lancaster quickly heaped credit on assistant coaches Robb Watt and Aaron Akin.

"I just drive the bus," joked Lancaster, who has nearly 730 career wins. "Seriously, these are the guys who make it happen and I want everyone to understand that. We've always dreamed as coaches to get to the pinnacle of where we are, but we never really understood exactly what it meant until we've felt this moment."

An Appalachian State graduate, Lancaster took time out to introduce his 22-year-old son, Jesse, who was celebrating his birthday. The overflow crowd serenaded the sophomore outfielder with "happy birthday."

Then he introduced the rest of the dignitaries -- the 2008 Trojan baseball team. The crowd roared their approval as each player walked up to home plate as his intro music, used for home baseball games, streamed through the speakers of the press box.

Once the introductions ended, fans armed with baseballs, hats, T-shirts and other items gathered onto the field. They sought out the players for their autographs and cameras flashed, immortalizing numerous moments in time.

"I'm just so happy for these guys," said coach Lancaster. "We've made some great memories with the team this season."

Memories they'll never forget.