03/18/10 — MOC vs. Shepherd-Fairmont

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MOC vs. Shepherd-Fairmont

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 18, 2010 1:48 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Some things just aren't printable.

Clinging to a one-run lead against a one-win team, Mount Olive players huddled outside their dugout before their sixth at-bat against Fairmont State on Wednesday evening.

The players nodded their heads as Trojans head coach Carl Lancaster offered his opinion of the first 51/2 innings of play.

"We said 'guys, this team is giving you a game here and it's your own fault because you're not prepared to play'," said Lancaster. "If you don't turn it up some, we're going to get ourselves in a situation you don't want to be in."

The No. 2-ranked Trojans (24-1 overall) exploded for nine runs in the final three innings combined and turned back the Falcons 16-8. Earlier in the day, Lancaster's squad dismantled Shepherd (W. Va.) University 19-7.

MOC improved to 25-3 overall against West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schools since 2003.

"This team (Fairmont) looked really bad yesterday (against Shepherd) and we just weren't locked in at all (today)... didn't get locked in until the seventh inning, and once we did, we were fine," said Lancaster. "It's all about mental preparation. Two nines in one day, plus what we saw yesterday, I can understand where they're coming from a little bit."

Jeremy Nowak's two-run homer and Jesse Lancaster's two-out, two-RBI double highlighted a sixth-run, second-inning outburst against FSU. Ryan Faison, the No. 9 batter in the order, added a third-inning RBI single to put MOC up 7-0.

The Trojans nearly got stuck in cruise control.

Fairmont State (1-9 overall), which dropped a doubleheader to Shepherd on Tuesday, answered with a four-run, fourth-inning rally. R.J. Vukovich slapped a two-RBI double off the right center-field wall and finally chased right-hander Sheldon Johnson, who struggled to find the strike zone all evening, off the mound.

The Falcons closed the gap to 7-6 in the sixth on back-to-back, RBI groundouts from Lucas Hyre and lead-off batter Andy Leach.

"We're down real low in our pitching staff, too, and tomorrow (today) is going to be even lower," said coach Lancaster. "We left too many balls up in the zone. You have to pitch down and change speeds, and we didn't do a very good job of it ... no question."

After the sixth-inning meeting, the Trojans pounded out 10 hits off Falcon relievers Tyler Kincaid and L.G. Shea in the final three innings. Nowak, who extended his hitting streak to 25 games, capped his birthday with a towering three-run blast in the eighth inning. It was Nowak's fourth homer of the day and 12th this spring.

Nowak finished the twinbill 7-for-10 with five extra-base knocks, eight RBI and seven runs scored.

"I'm glad Nowak was on our team today," smiled Lancaster. "He came up big for us several times."

Fairmont hung around, but right-handed closer Ryan Williams shut the door. The senior induced an inning-ending groundout in the eighth to stop a Falcon rally. He allowed a ninth-inning walk with two outs, but coaxed Leach into a game-ending groundout to keep MOC perfect in 22 home contests this season.

"I really didn't think we'd have to go through our closer to get through this game," said Lancaster.

Eight of nine starters collected at least one hit apiece in the 12-run thrashing of Shepherd. Clean-up batter Mike Knox provided three hits and a team-leading four RBI, while Bobby Leeper doubled twice and tripled in a 3-for-4 effort.

Senior Jackson Massey claimed the mound win, allowing four runs (two earned) on six hits and striking out three. Jeremy Hall and David Combs combined for four innings of relief.

"Shepherd has been playing pretty good," said Lancaster. "We felt like (before the game) we have to get out there and go to win this game, and we did ... put it away early.

"We came out like we were capable of playing."

MOC entertains Fairmont State today. First pitch is 2 p.m.