Mount Olive tops N.C. Wesleyan
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 23, 2009 1:46 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Ryan Kussmaul was almost perfect.
The right-hander came within four outs of notching the first-ever perfect game in Mount Olive College baseball history during an 8-2, non-conference conquest of N.C. Wesleyan on Wednesday evening.
Kussmaul logged a career-best 10 strikeouts and permitted two hits as the Trojans (30-18 overall) claimed the doubleheader sweep at Scarborough Field. Rich Racobaldo slapped a sixth-inning homer as MOC took the opener, 7-5.
A 6-foot-3 senior from Wisconsin, Kussmaul retired the first 17 Bishops he faced and retired the side on strikeouts in the second and third innings. A hit batsman in the sixth inning spoiled Kussmaul's perfect-game bid.
Luke Williford broke up the no-hitter and shutout with an RBI single, and later scored on a throwing error to pull NCWC within 3-2.
Kussmaul notched his 10th strikeout in the seventh inning and yielded a single to right field. But the 195-pound hurler sealed his best outing of the season -- and career -- with a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Racobaldo's late-game homer, his team-leading 12th round-tripper of the season, capped the Trojans' comeback in game one. The Battling Bishops, the USA South Conference regular-season and tournament champions, seized a 4-0 lead after 31/2 innings of action.
Mount Olive tied the contest with a fifth-inning, three-run uprising.
Alex Vertcnik, one of six seniors, accounted for the first run with an opposite-field, RBI triple. Vertcnik scored when Racobaldo reached on an error and Racobaldo trotted home on Joseph Westbrook's single.
Westbrook finished the game 3-for-3.
NCWC retook the lead in the fifth, but Mount Olive answered with Dylan Holton's RBI hit and Racobaldo's homer.
Senior left-hander Paul Novicki earned his third decision with a career-best, eight-strikeout performance. The South Lenoir alum retired 10 of the final 12 batters he faced.
The Trojans entertain Virginia State University, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association champion, at 2 p.m. today. MOC concludes its season with a doubleheader Saturday at in-state foe Chowan University.
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