By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 24, 2011 1:47 PM
Sweaty and frustrated, Mount Olive's players reported to the locker room to escape the heat and let off some steam Sunday afternoon.
Francis Marion had squelched a ninth-inning rally, escaped 9-7 and forced the top-seeded Trojans into a 'winner-take-all' game in the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional at Scarborough Field.
Were the Trojans angry?
"We went into the locker room after the game, and of course, the guys were mad, but we really weren't worried at all," said senior Tyler Smith, one of two players left from MOC's national championship team in 2008. "Their pitching staff was pretty beat up and we had all our big dogs left."
Smith looked at Capps.
"We knew we could score enough runs to get this guy (Capps) in, and that's what happened," said Smith in the post-game interview.
Carl Lancaster laughed and held up two fingers.
"Two runs?" he quipped.
Yeah, coach, two runs.
The top-rated Major League prospect among Division II players this season, Capps stepped in for right-handed starter Jeremy Hall and guided Mount Olive back to the College World Series for a second time in program and Conference Carolinas history.
Capps scattered three hits in 61/3 innings and stifled the Patriots, who batted a regional-best .287 during the four-day, double-elimination affair. He retired 10 straight batters at one point and permitted just one hit after the fourth inning.
During one stretch, Capps threw 43 strikes in 48 pitches.
"I knew we were in a win-or-go home situation, so I had no choice but to be good," said Capps. "I knew the defense behind me was there, so I had to pound the zone. I got some good breaks."
Mount Olive (45-8 overall) avenged a season-ending defeat to FMU in last year's Southeast Regional played on the Patriots' home diamond. The Patriots (41-16) lost in the regional championship for the second straight year and were denied their first CWS trip since 2006.
Francis Marion rallied in the ninth inning to eliminate Peach Belt tournament champion UNC Pembroke late Saturday evening. Patriots right-hander Don Sandifer, who threw 129 pitches in a 10-inning loss to Catawba in the regional opener, returned to throw six innings to keep his team alive against Mount Olive.
Sophomore lefty Matt Broderick threw seven innings in the Patriots' season-ending loss.
"I was really proud of the way our guys battled and competed the entire time," said Francis Marion coach Art Inabinet. "(Capps) is a really good guy, hadn't been beaten all year and he beat us today. It was two great baseball games (and) the fans got their money's worth today.
"Our kids hung in there, battled and came through the losers' bracket."
Lancaster gushed over his players' effort.
Finally, another preseason goal could be marked off the list.
"A tournament like this is a sprint, you have to hang in there and grind," said Lancaster, who has 845 career victories. "There were good teams here, no one you could get by easy. So any time you're in a situation like that, you have to make big plays and get key hits like we got."
And let the big dog -- Capps -- run.
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