02/08/12 — Wright, Smith help MOC claim two victories

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Wright, Smith help MOC claim two victories

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 8, 2012 1:48 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive raised the curtain on its 2012 softball season in dramatic fashion Tuesday evening.

Christie Wright capped an edge-of-your-seat thriller with a seventh-inning, walk-off home run to give the Trojans a 6-4 win over UNC Pembroke in game one. Lauren Smith provided a sterling encore, recording key strikeouts during the latter stages of a 2-1 triumph in game two.

Mount Olive (2-0 overall) claimed a season-opening victory for just the third time during Jaime Kylis-Higginbotham's coaching tenure, and swept a doubleheader from the Braves for the first time since 2003.

"There's definitely a new attitude about them this year," said Higginbotham, who inched closer to 300 career wins. "We have 10 freshman and some of them saw some PT (playing time) today, and we're very excited about them. We only had at one time just two seniors in the lineup."

Wright wanted redemption.

The Chowan University transfer allowed just two base runners through four innings in the opener, but ran into trouble in the fifth and watched a four-run advantage quickly evaporate. The right-hander surrendered a walk and a run-scoring double to Brea Hartley, which erased the Braves' zero on the board.

Karlee Wilson's two-run home run, her first of the season, closed the gap to 4-3 and Wright exited the pitcher's circle one batter later. Sophomore Carly White permitted a game-tying single to lead-off batter Kaylee Wilson, but shut down the Braves (0-5) from that point.

The right-handed alum from West Brunswick tossed three innings of two-hit, scoreless relief for her first win of the season.

Mount Olive stranded the game-winning run at third base in the fifth inning and at second base in the sixth. The Trojans seemed destined for the same fate in the seventh until Wright mashed a two-out, one-strike offering over the left center-field fence.

"I knew I had to get it done," said Wright. "I knew that my teammates were counting on me and knew no matter what I was going to get on base. That was just a bonus."

The Trojans, who are 37-81 all-time against Peach Belt teams since 1990, grabbed a two-run advantage in the nightcap. Rebekah McDaniel cranked out RBI singles in each of the first and third innings to give Smith some working room inside the circle.

Smith (1-0) lost her perfect game, no-hitter and shutout in the fifth inning. UNCP pressured the MOC defense with its short game and avoided the shutout on an outfield error. The Braves, however, left two runners in scoring position when Smith slammed the door with an inning-ending, foul-trip strikeout.

UNCP loaded the bases on an infield hit, a throwing error on a bunt and a fielder's choice bunt in the sixth. But Smith responded with consecutive strikeouts to end the inning.

"I just needed to relax, breathe and slow it down," said Smith. "In the fifth, I got a little bit rushed. I threw some curveballs off the plate and had fun with it."

The Braves stranded another runner in the seventh against Smith, who posted a career-best 12 strikeouts and permitted just three hits in a complete-game performance.