04/21/10 — Stevens: Trojan pitching staff silences demons after day one

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Stevens: Trojan pitching staff silences demons after day one

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on April 21, 2010 1:46 PM

They went from unsteady to reliable and from scapegoats to conference tournament champions within a three-day period.

An area of concern before the season even began and much-maligned during the year, Mount Olive's pitching staff came up big when it mattered most.

After struggling to get ahead of hitters and record outs in the Trojans' first-round loss to Anderson in the 2010 Conference Carolinas baseball tournament, Mount Olive hurlers delivered four consecutive clutch performances.

Trojan starter Sean Lydon labored through 31/3 innings against Anderson. He surrendered five earned runs on five hits, posted six strikeouts and walked three. Lydon endured the mound loss.

During that game, MOC called on starting pitcher Curtis Hudson to throw 22/3 innings of relief. Bullpen mates David Combs and Ryan Williams combined to work the final three innings, which left the team's pitching situation in limbo for the remainder of the double-elimination tournament.

Before the Anderson game, just four Trojan pitchers had thrown 43 or more innings. MOC had lost four of its last nine games and dropped seven of 16 overall after a sparking 25-1 start.

In the seven losses, opponents outscored the Trojans 74-43.

During regular-season play, Mount Olive pitchers had tossed just eight complete games, including four from sophomore Carter Capps. The North Lenoir alum took some pressure off his fellow pitchers with a complete-game effort against Barton in elimination-round play.

Not to be outdone by Capps, former Charles B. Aycock standout Jackson Massey was solid over 71/3 innings against Belmont Abbey in another elimination game. Massey struck out 12 and allowed one run on nine hits.

Massey worked out of trouble with runners on first and second, and one out in the bottom of the third inning. He got Roland Rodriguez to fly out and he struck out Daniel Torrente to end the inning.

The senior left-hander struck out the side in the home half of the fourth after allowing a lead-off single. He struck out Torrente with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh.

Hudson ate up seven innings and surrendered three runs in a 5-4 win over Pfeiffer on Sunday. The Falcons were previously unbeaten in the tournament until Bobby Leeper's two-out two-run single in the bottom of the ninth inning forced a winner-take-all game.

In the tournament final, Lydon (8-3) rebounded from his disastrous outing and held Pfeiffer to three runs in eight innings. His teammates gave him a four-run cushion.

During the four-day tournament, MOC pitchers recorded 49 strikeouts in five games. The Trojan relievers permitted just one run in 42/3 innings of action during the final three days.

Whether this group of Trojans can capture the program's second national title remains to be seen.

But the whispers about Mount Olive's once-unproven pitching staff were put to rest during three unforgettable days at historic Fleming Stadium in Wilson.