05/16/11 — Trojans are hosts for D-II regional

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Trojans are hosts for D-II regional

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 16, 2011 1:47 PM

The conference championship banner hanging in Kornegay Arena undoubtedly brings considerable recognition to one of the nation's top Division II baseball programs.

But when players don a Mount Olive College uniform, those titles have little impact on the bigger picture -- playing for regional and national supremacy.

Moments after winning the Conference Carolinas title nearly one month ago, the MOC players shook hands with Limestone, picked up their hardware and headed toward the locker room to change clothes.

The Trojans claimed an unprecedented 10th conference tournament championship to go along with their nine regular-season crowns, which further solidified their status as the league's elite program.

But there was no dogpile after the title-game victory.

There were no chest bumps.

In fact, there was no celebration at all.

"We said we weren't going to celebrate because we expected to do it," said Jacob Rogers, who crushed two home runs that afternoon, including the go-ahead dinger in the latter stages of the game.

Not one teammate disagreed with Rogers.

Step one has been completed.

"Definitely one step," said preseason All-American candidate Carter Capps, who is projected as a third-round pick the Major League Baseball amateur draft this June.

"We had goals at the beginning of the year and this (conference title) was one of them. We expect to win it every year and if we don't, it's a letdown. That (win) was for (Coach) Carl (Lancaster) today."

The attention is now focused on postseason play.

Mount Olive (41-7 overall) clinched the automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional, which begins Thursday morning at Scarborough Field. The No. 2-ranked Trojans, who have won 12 of their last 13 games, oppose South Atlantic Conference champion Wingate at 7 p.m.

Third-seeded UNC Pembroke, the Peach Belt champion, opposes fourth-seeded Columbus State at 11 a.m. Second-seeded Francis Marion (S.C.) University takes on fifth-seeded Catawba at 3 p.m.

The double-elimination tournament continues through Sunday with the winner advancing to the Division II College World Series in Cary.

MOC has undergone a significant change since it season-ending doubleheader sweep of Winston-Salem State. Designated hitter Mike Knox is out indefinitely with a hand injury, which will create a change among the top five hitters in the lineup.

The Trojans average 8.6 runs an outing, and have scored five or more runs in nine of their last 13 games. That's a marked improvement for a team that produced just 10 runs total in a three-game series against Erskine in early April.

MOC didn't feel too much pressure en route to the Conference Carolinas tournament championship. Don't expect the Trojans to have the same attitude this weekend.