05/12/10 — Trojans' hurlers silence critics

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Trojans' hurlers silence critics

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on May 12, 2010 1:47 PM

Change can by hard, especially in the complex dynamic of team sports.

But for the pitching staff at Mount Olive College, the change that has come along with first-year pitching coach Matt Kruse's philosophy has been relatively seamless.

The Trojans enter the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional with a 40-9 record.

"I have to give all of the credit to this group of kids because they have been willing to learn," said Kruse. "Each of them try to get better every day and it starts with the guys in the rotation."

Entering the season there were plenty of questions surrounding the Trojan hurlers. New names and a new aggressive strategy were both a cause for concern in the clubhouse. However, Sean Lydon, Carter Capps and Curtis Hudson quickly silenced critics as the team got off to a 25-1 start.

Capps, a former catcher with zero collegiate innings entering the season, emerged as the team's number two starter and has built an impressive 9-0 record in 12 starts.

"Any time you have a guy that has a 95 mile-per-hour fastball, it helps him learn quickly," Kruse joked. "Carter has done a great job learning to use his second pitch and pitch to the count."

An alum of North Lenoir High School, Capps red-shirted the 2009 season and spent the winter picking up a change-up to go with his heater.

Kruse's aggressive pitch calling and fastball-first approach has made Capps' move to the mound easier than expected.

"Coach Kruse has helped me find the right mix without trying to over throw," said Capps. "I used to throw 90 percent fastballs, and now its probably around 60 percent because I have confidence in my other stuff."

Capps' fellow starters have also taken Cruise's message to heart.

Hudson has a 6-1 mark and fourth starter Jackson Massey has racked up seven wins. Lydon is carrying an 8-3 record into regional play. The four starters have a combined earned run average of 3.50.

"Sean is a thinking man's pitcher so the mental approach is something he takes very seriously," said Kruse. "He wants to be the best he can be and he is incredibly driven."

With just four wins separating Mount Olive from a second trip to the Division II College World Series, the critics have been silenced.

"We heard all of the things people were saying before the year," said Kruse. "Everyone knew that this team had hitters, but all of the speculation was about me and our staff. I think the guys have done a good job and we have answered a lot doubters."