By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 23, 2011 3:32 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Carl Lancaster called on his ace pitcher sooner than he expected Sunday afternoon.
Boy, did Carter Capps deliver.
The Southeast Region pitcher-of-the-year threw 61/3 innings of sterling relief and propelled Mount Olive College to a 2-1 victory over Francis Marion in the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional championship game at Scarborough Field.
The top-seeded Trojans (45-8 overall) clinched a long-awaited trip to Cary for the College World Series, which begin Saturday at the USA National Baseball Training Complex. No. 2-ranked Mount Olive faces the Atlantic Region champion at 5 p.m.
"Today was a battle I didn't expect in the second game because I thought we'd push some runs across since their pitching staff was beat up a little bit," said Lancaster.
He changed his mind in the third inning.
MOC starter Jeremy Hall surrendered an earned run, and Lancaster removed the right-hander after he plunked 2011 Peach Belt co-player-of-the-year Buddy Sosnoskie with two outs.
Capps did the rest.
A catcher-turned-pitcher, the lanky right-hander induced an inning-ending groundout. The second-seeded Patriots (41-16) managed just three base runners over the next six-plus innings, and stranded two potential runs at second base in the fourth and eighth innings.
"We had our opportunities, hit some balls hard," said FMU coach Art Inabinet. "You have to take your hat off to Capps. We haven't seen a pitcher like that all year. For us to go in there and take the quality hacks that we did, that's all you can ask for.
"Our kids never quit and kept getting after it."
And Capps kept sending the Pats back to the dugout.
The North Lenoir alum wiggled out of a fourth-inning jam and retired the net 10 batters he faced until Michael Wilson opened the FMU eighth with a single. Brooks Arnette moved Wilson into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt.
Sosnoskie strode to the batter's box.
Wilson tried to tip the Virginia Tech transfer what pitch Capps was going to throw, so he and catcher Tyler Smith worked up a little counter strategy. Capps struck out Sosnoskie on three straight pitches.
"They gave him (Sosnoskie) the wrong sign, so that it panned out a little bit better," said a grinning Capps. "There were a few at-bats in the game that would change the outcome if you didn't get them out, and that was definitely one of them.
"I had to get a strikeout in that situation."
Capps retired the final four batters he faced. Buddy Gordon's groundout to second baseman Dan Hayduk ended the contest, and the celebration began with a dogpile near the pitcher's mound.
"I think he, as well as myself, and everybody else in the community that was here today wanted to see us move on," said Lancaster. "If you saw the expression on his face when he got on the mound, it was as locked in as I've ever seen.
"He came in and closed a game this year against Francis Marion, and he had that same look on his face. All the marbles were on the table, and he went and got it."
Capps finished with six strikeouts and extended his NCAA Division II win streak to 24 victories on the hill. He broke Ryan Schlecht's single-season win record (13) and surpassed Brad Stoops' all-time career wins record (23) set from 1995-98.
Wilson started the FMU first with an infield single that pulled shortstop Ryan Faison out of the hole, and forced him into a throwing error. Wilson advanced to third on Arnette's sac bunt and attempted to score on Sosnoskie's fielder's choice grounder.
But Faison gunned down Wilson at the plate. Four pitches later, Smith shot down Sosnoskie, who tried to swipe second base, to end the inning.
"Our guys are used to when the infield is back, we hit a ground ball to one of the middle infielders, we score and you just can't take that for granted," said Inabinet. "The shortstop made a nice play ... a two-hopper just to his right and made a great throw. I think Michael might have hesitated just a tad.
"Maybe we should have hit the ball out of the infield."
Mount Olive broke the scoreless deadlock in the third inning.
Faison reached on an infield error and scampered to second on Joseph Westbrook's bunt down the first-base line. Jason Simon singled and Faison trotted home on Jacob Rogers' first-pitch single to left field.
Smith drove in Simone for the game-winning run with a single to left. Rogers got caught in a wild 7-6-5-4-5 rundown to end the inning. MOC put seven more runners aboard in the final six innings, but southpaw Matt Broderick and reliever Patrick Mincey held the Trojans to eight hits.
MOC struggled to show patience against Broderick. The Trojans stranded six runners and ran themselves out of the eighth inning with a base-running mistake.
"It's definitely annoying because he was a mixing-pitch guy," said Simone of the team's impatience at the plate. "He just kept going in and out, changing speeds and it was tough to wait on a certain pitch. We just kept hitting ground balls and pop-ups the whole game."
The two runs were enough for Capps, however.
Lancaster kept checking with his ace hurler after every inning.
"We talked every inning, and he said he'll give me one more, one more and he finally finished it up," said Lancaster. "I was hoping he'd never say 'no'. He was just lights out and did a great job for us."
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