04/26/12 — MOC prepared for Conference Carolinas tourney

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MOC prepared for Conference Carolinas tourney

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 26, 2012 1:49 PM

WILSON -- The most-important part of the baseball season begins today for Mount Olive College.

The No. 1-ranked Trojans open defense of their Conference Carolinas tournament championship against sixth-seeded Erskine (S.C.) at historic Fleming Stadium. First pitch is 7 p.m.

In other first-round games, third-seeded Pfeiffer faced fourth-seeded King (Tenn.) at 11 a.m. Fifth-seeded North Greenville (S.C.) opposed second-seeded Belmont Abbey at 3 p.m. The double-elimination tournament continues through Sunday and the winner seizes the automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional -- the springboard to the College World Series in Cary.

Daily passes are $10 and a four-day tournament pass is $35. Students with valid identification from conference institutions and children under the age of five are admitted free. No outside food or drink is permitted.

A trio of pitchers will be called upon to help top-seeded Mount Olive, which has won five of the last seven tournament crowns and 10 overall in the program's Division II era. The Trojans swept the regular-season, three-game series from Erskine nearly a month ago.

JUCO transfer Matt Dillon is 8-0 and has thrown a pair of complete games this season. The right-hander has compiled a team-best 1.61 earned run average (ERA) 61-plus innings and logged 47 strikeouts.

Senior righty Jake Moser is 8-2 with a 3.36 ERA. He has tossed a team-leading 80.3 innings, while junior Zach Smith is 7-2 with a 2.50 ERA. Senior Chris Hinton has eaten up 33.3 innings out of the bullpen and logged a 4-0 record with one save.

The staff ERA is a league-best 3.09.

Offensively, Mount Olive has 10 players hitting .300 or better and two above the .400 clip. JUCO transfer Geno Escalante puts his school-record 37-game hitting streak and team-best .432 average on the line against the Flying Fleet.

Escalante, the team's leading candidate for Conference Carolinas player-of-the-year honors, leads the Trojans in at-bats (183), runs scored (60), hits (79), extra-base hits (26) and RBI (61). Teammate Jacob Rogers is hitting .418 with 66 hits, 53 RBI and a team-high 14 home runs.

Overall, MOC hits .357 as a team.