04/01/11 — League lead at stake for Trojans

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League lead at stake for Trojans

By MOC Sports Information
Published in Sports on April 1, 2011 1:47 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- On the road with first place in Conference Carolinas at stake and the weight of being ranked No. 1 in the country on its back, Mount Olive has plenty to gain and almost as much to lose at Belmont Abbey this weekend.

The Trojans and Crusaders, separated by 11/2 games in the conference standings, play a doubleheader on Saturday and a single game on Sunday in Belmont.

Mount Olive (27-3 overall, 13-1 CC) has won 12 games in a row, including a three-game sweep at Barton last weekend. The Trojans haven't lost since a 3-2 defeat at home to Limestone on March 5.

Belmont Abbey (27-9, 11-2) has won nine of its last 12 games.

"I think it's going to be an exciting series," said Mount Olive head coach Carl Lancaster. "We better go ready to play. We're going to see a team that's got a shot at the No. 1 team in the country and a chance to possibly win the regular-season conference championship. We certainly know the magnitude of this series."

Despite being picked to win the conference in the pre-season coaches poll, the Trojans had several question marks to start the year. Lancaster was uncertain how a number of new players would fit into the lineup. A lack of pitching depth, particularly in the bullpen, was also a concern.

Newcomers Jason Simone, Nick Gaeta, Jacob Rogers and Antonio Callaway have meshed well in Mount Olive's offense. All four are hitting .359 or better and have combined for 85 RBI. The Trojans have eight players with 50 or more at-bats who are hitting .346 or higher. Designated hitter Mike Knox is third in all of Division II baseball with 14 home runs.

"Simone is a kid that can put the barrel of the bat on anything thrown," said Lancaster. "Jacob Rogers is starting to look more like the player we expected to see all season. Callaway has gotten better as times goes on, and Nick Gaeta is a guy who hits the ball hard and doesn't strikeout."

Sophomore and North Lenoir alum Carter Capps, continues to be the anchor of Mount Olive's starting rotation. Capps is 6-0 this season with a 1.66 earned run average and is 16-0 in his career as a starter. Pete Levitt (5-2), Curtis Hudson (5-0) and Jeremy Hall (3-0) all have ERA's under 3.00.

David Combs and Greg McDaniel have both been reliable out of the bullpen.

UNC Greensboro transfer Joey Frabasile leads Belmont Abbey with a .395 batting average. Chris Vazquez's 10 home runs and 42 RBI are both team highs. Steven Thiele is 6-0 with three complete games and a 2.24 ERA in eight starts. Cody Stull (5-0) has also been a bright spot in the Crusaders' rotation.

Mount Olive was 3-1 against Belmont Abbey a year ago, including a 15-1 victory in the Conference Carolinas tournament.