04/30/12 — Trojans serve up Justice

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Trojans serve up Justice

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 30, 2012 1:49 PM

WILSON -- Mount Olive College served up a healthy dose of Justice against nemesis Erskine (S.C.) College on the baseball diamond Sunday afternoon.

Derek Justice, a freshman southpaw, scattered six hits in his longest outing of the year during a convincing 13-3 pounding of the Flying Fleet in the Conference Carolinas tournament championship game at historic Fleming Stadium. The No. 1-ranked Trojans (42-7 overall) secured the automatic berth for the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional.

Tournament MVP Jake Rogers crushed a first-inning solo home run for Mount Olive, which captured an unprecedented 11th straight league tournament title during the program's Division II era. Rogers boosted his season home run total to 17.

"It's been a great season, it really has," Trojans head coach Carl Lancaster said. "We didn't anticipate being here. We thought we had a chance."

Justice, in his third start, tossed eight sterling innings as gray clouds gave way to sunny skies and warm temperatures. The University of Virginia transfer filled up the strike zone and cooled down the sixth-seeded Flying Fleet, which won three elimination games to reach its first championship game since 2009.

Erskine (30-23 overall) managed just six hits on the day and scored single runs in the second, fifth and eighth innings. The Flying Fleet stranded six runners, including four in scoring position.

Justice, who earned an all-tournament nod, threw 114 pitches and retired eight straight batters in two-plus innings.

"I needed a little bit better outing than my last," Justice said. "I haven't thrown in a game this meaningful in a long time, and I knew I had to throw strikes ... pound the zone. One through four in their lineup will hit anything hard and up.

"Five through nine, will hit anything offspeed and (pitches) in the dirt they'll chase and that proved (true) today. They went after it."

Mount Olive cranked out 17 hits against Erskine, which used the pitch-by-committee approach again. The Trojans' bottom part of the order -- Braden Reitano, Cameron Sherrer, Will Bynum and Bryan Dunlavey -- saw three new pitchers in the third and fourth innings combined.

The foursome combined for six hits, six runs, four RBI, four walks and struck out just one time in 17 plate appearances. Erskine also obliged with two hit batsmen.

"It's important we get on base, hold up our end of the job and help the guys at the top of the order," said Reitano, who drew three walks. "Walks are always big and put men on base. We had some good, timely hitting after errors and walks.

"It was a good team win."

The Trojans (42-7) plated at least one run in the first four innings and scored in seven innings overall. JUCO transfer Geno Escalante extended his school-record hitting streak to 41 games with a first-inning single up the middle moments after Rogers deposited a two-strike fastball over the right-field fence.

Escalante ended the day 4-for-6 and earned all-tournament recognition. Sherrer provided three hits. All-tournament selection Mike Mercurio and Rogers contributed two hits apiece.

MOC broke the game open with a five-run uprising in the seventh inning.

Reitano walked, moved into scoring position on Sherrer's double down the third-base line and trotted home on Bynum's sacrifice fly. Dunlavey plated Sherrer with a single and scored on Mercurio's double. Escalante capped the surge with a two-RBI base knock.

"Those little guys can run a little bit, put some pressure on the other team and they don't try to do too much," said Lancaster, who notched career win No. 889. "I give a lot of credit to those guys at the bottom (of the lineup). We've got a nice team all the way through.

"Our offense today was really, really good. Our pitching was outstanding and our defense was good."

The Trojans improved to 11-0 all-time in tournament championship games.