04/19/12 — MOC softball ready for Conference Carolinas tourney

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MOC softball ready for Conference Carolinas tourney

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 19, 2012 1:48 PM

HARTSVILLE, S.C. -- Hard work.



Love for the game.

Not being satisfied.

And Jaime Kylis doesn't stop there with the adjectives when she describes the Mount Olive College softball team to fans, parents and passersby.

Who can blame her giddiness?

The Trojan women pounded out 31 victories, won the East Division title in Conference Carolinas play and are the No. 2 seed for the season-ending, double-elimination tournament. MOC faces seventh-seeded Coker (18-22 overall) in opening-round play Friday at noon on the Byerly Park diamond.

In other quarterfinal-round games, top-seeded and West Division champion North Greenville (23-9) faces Belmont Abbey; third-seeded Queens-Charlotte (28-22) opposes King (Tenn.); and fourth-seeded Erskine (21-21) battles Limestone.

The tournament champion secures the automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional.

"(Assistant) Coach (Craig) Hurba and myself could not be any happier with how these girls have been playing here in the last stretch of the season," Kylis said. "Some of the younger players have started to figure things out and with the leadership of the older girls, it's an exciting time for us right now.

"For us to win the tournament, we need to keep doing what we have been doing, stick to the offensive game plan and play strong defense."

Pitching and timely hitting sparked the Trojans to 11 wins in their final 12 games, which were all on the road. The lone hiccup was a shutout loss to Queens.

Senior Robbin Kennedy is the leader in batting average (.370), runs scored (37), hits (50), extra-base hits (17), RBI (32) and on-base percentage (.466). The 5-foot-4 catcher/first baseman has struck out just 10 times in 135 at-bats this season.

Four other Trojans are hitting .300 or better -- freshman infielder Jennifer Jones, senior outfielder Kayla Voorhees, sophomore infielder Katie Moore and junior outfielder Danielle Mitchell. Voorhees is the team's top thief with 15 stolen bases and second on the team in hits (42), while Moore has knocked in 21 runs.

MOC bats .283 as a team and has outscored the opposition 240-138. The Trojans have scored seven or more runs in 17 games and lost just once.

"Having an extremely knowledgeable assistant coach has been amazing," Kylis said. "What he has done with our hitters has been just awesome, and the time he has given to them is endless. Your players have to buy into what you are putting out there to be successful, and we have that."

The pitching staff has been just as stellar.

The foursome of Sarah Saunders, Lauren Smith, Carly White and Christie Wright have combined for a conference-leading 2.05 earned run average (ERA) in 300 innings of action.

Smith has emerged the team's top hurler. The 5-7 right-handed freshman from Clinton is 16-6 inside the circle with a 1.74 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 123 innings. She has tossed 14 complete games, including 10 shutouts and recorded four saves.

Wright has thrown the second-most innings (94) and fashioned a 7-6 record. Saunders is 6-1 with a 1.49 ERA, while White is 2-2 in 12 appearances this season.

"Our pitching staff has done an amazing job in the circle," Kylis said. "We are so diverse and that definitely gives us an advantage going into the tournament. We have four pitchers who have the capability to shut down any team on any given day.

"One of the things that make our staff so strong is the support they give each other."