Stevens: Trojans answer questions
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 20, 2011 1:47 PM
In a five-day span, Mount Olive put to rest many of the questions that have lingered all season long.
The Trojans got quality outings from both their starting pitchers and their bullpen, produced timely hits and claimed their 10th Conference Carolinas tournament championship on Monday.
Mount Olive (34-6 overall) entered the tournament with legitimate concerns about the lack of developed depth in its bullpen. Rained-out games and a handful of lopsided wins limited the opportunities head coach Carl Lancaster had to put his relievers into pressure situations.
Trojans' relievers Kris Barone, Greg McDaniel, Josh Frederick and David Combs, along with Carter Capps combined to allow six runs (five earned) in 111/3 innings with 12 strikeouts during the tournament.
Starter Pete Levitt set the tone one the mound with eight strong innings in opening-round, 10-4 win over Barton. Levitt surrendered three earned runs on five hits with seven strikeouts and a walk. The junior right-hander didn't allow a hit or a run in his final four innings of work.
Capps and Curtis Hudson both prevented Lancaster from having to dip too far into his bullpen by turning in starts of at least six innings on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Jeremy Hall kept Mount Olive in Monday's championship game until Capps came on to throw 42/3 innings of one-run relief to earn the win.
Capps began the season as the No. 1-ranked pitcher in all of Division II baseball, and without question will be selected in this summer's Major League Baseball draft. The North Lenoir alum earned tournament MVP honors, and improved to 20-0 during his two seasons in a Trojans' uniform.
Mount Olive had scored just six runs in its previous 16 innings entering the tournament and had gone 2-3 in its last five games. The Trojans' bats awoke from their slumber against Barton with a 10-hit performance. Six different Mount Olive players recorded a hit, including two home runs from Mike Knox and a solo homer by Joseph Westbrook.
Mount Olive followed that up with a 23-hit explosion against Belmont Abbey and 12 hits in Saturday's win over Limestone. The Trojans tallied 14 hits in Monday's victory over the Saints. Knox, Westbrook and left fielder Jason Simone each hit .500 or better in the tournament and were named to the all-tournament team.
Mount Olive averaged 10.2 runs a game during its stay in Wilson and 21 of its 41 runs came in the sixth inning or later. This all from an offense that had Lancaster wondering at the beginning of the season how it would produce with so many new names penciled in.
The Trojans moved into a tie for first place in this week's Collegiate Baseball Division II Top 30 poll. Mount Olive is in position to potentially host the Southeast Regional May 19-22. It last hosted a regional in 2008 when it won the only national championship of any kind in school history.
Of all the questions that have surrounded the Trojans this season, perhaps the only one remaining is just how another remarkable season will end.