Hitting: Nowak, Leeper, Knox do it best
By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on May 12, 2010 1:47 PM
An influx of fresh faces usually brings the word rebuilding to mind in college locker rooms.
At Mount Olive College, a trio of new players have a different idea.
Bobby Leeper, Jeremy Nowak and Mike Knox have all made immense and immediate impacts on the Trojans lineup and helped guide the team to a 40-9 record going into the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional this weekend.
Leeper transfered from UNC Wilmington to Mount Olive over the summer. His impact as the team's lead-off batter has been felt throughout the year, but in no bigger moment than the final at-bat of the Conference Carolinas tournament at Fleming Stadium in Wilson.
Down to his final strike, Leeper roped a base hit up the middle and plated the game's winning run. Through 49 games, Leeper has compiled a .445 batting average and leads the team with 78 runs scored.
Knox has been the driving force behind a majority of those runs.
A transfer from the University of North Carolina, Knox broke the single-season home run record when he hammered his 23rd long ball of the season against Pfeiffer in the conference tournament. He also leads the team with 92 RBI.
Despite the individual success, Knox is quick to point out that the only statistic he is concerned about now is the win column.
"I came to Mount Olive because there is a tradition of success here," said Knox. "When I decided to transfer, I wanted to pick a place where I could play and where we could win games, and now we have eight games between us and a potential national championship."
Nowak made his way to Mount Olive from Division I Stony Brook University in New York. He has seen time in the Trojan outfield and on the pitcher's mound as a hard-throwing reliever. Nowak leads the team in batting average with a .465 mark that includes 17 home runs.
As a pitcher, Nowak has appeared in seven games and has not allowed an earned run.
"Having guys in the lineup that protect each other ensures that we all get to see good pitches," said Knox. "When the guys at the top of the order are getting on, I get chances to drive in runs and when the guys at the bottom of the lineup are hitting, it means I get to see better pitches."
Unlike Leeper and Nowak, who are both seniors, Knox has two years to build his resume as the Trojans' cleanup hitter. He knows that a regional championship would go a long way to stamping his legacy.
"I think every guy on this team is ready and everyone knows what we are playing for," Knox said. "Seeing every team's best pitcher from here on out is a challenge but I think its one that we are prepared for."
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