04/15/10 — MOC ready for conference tourney

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MOC ready for conference tourney

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on April 15, 2010 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The keys to success and the concerns haven't changed much for the Mount Olive College baseball team since the season began in early February.

Suddenly, the stakes have gotten a lot higher.

The top-seeded Trojans open play today against sixth-seeded Anderson (17-32 overall) in the 2010 Conference Carolinas tournament. First pitch is 7 p.m. at Fleming Stadium in Wilson.

It's a rematch of last year's opening-round game won by Anderson.

Mount Olive (34-8) claimed the regular-season championship by winning two out of three games last weekend at Erskine.

The Trojans have ridden the bats of Mike Knox and Jeremy Nowak all season. Knox enters the tournament with a .383 batting average and a single-season, school-record 22 home runs.

Nowak had a 35-game hitting streak earlier in the season which ranks as the second-longest in Division II history. The Cheektowaga, N.Y. senior leads the team in batting average at .480, hits with 86 and stolen bases with 22.

The Trojans have outscored their opponents 522-210 and average 12.4 runs per game. Mount Olive scored 10 runs or more runs 27 times.

MOC outscored Anderson 41-6 during a three-game series in late February at Scarborough Field.

The Trojans' pitching staff was a question mark before the season began and has continued to be an area of concern. They have lost four of their last nine games and seven of their last 16. In those seven losses Mount Olive was outscored 74-43.

Finding pitching depth both in the starting rotation and out of the bullpen has been a struggle. Just four Trojans' hurlers have tossed 43 or more innings.

Sean Lydon (7-2) leads Mount Olive with 61 1/3 innings pitched and has compiled a 3.52 earned run average. Fellow starters Carter Capps (7-0) and Jackson Massey (5-1) have posted ERAs below 4.00.

Junior left-hander Curtis Hudson has gone 6-1 in seven starts with a 4.33 ERA.

In four tournament games a year ago, Mount Olive used nine different pitchers. Only two of those nine pitchers turned in performances that lasted longer than six innings.

The Trojans are seeking their fourth tournament championship in the past five seasons and ninth overall in program history. The tournament winner clinches the automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional.