05/17/12 — Dillon, Moser, Smith --Trio has emerged as Trojans' pitching leaders

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Dillon, Moser, Smith --Trio has emerged as Trojans' pitching leaders

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on May 17, 2012 1:48 PM

It is officially time to get down to business. And for Mount Olive College pitching coach Jason Sherrer and his staff of young arms, the Southeast Regional marks the beginning of what the team hopes will be another run to the NCAA Division II College World Series.

The Trojans won their only national championship in 2008 and returned to the World Series last season on the strength of a solid rotation. To make it past the five other regional contenders in 2012, the Trojans know that pitching is key.

"I think our pitchers all know that the regional games are going to be close games and I think they are ready," Sherrer said after a recent practice. "It's time for guys to step up and give us good innings whenever they are called upon."

Matt Dillon will likely see his name penciled into the starter's slot on the lineup card tonight when the Trojans take on Lander University. A junior college transfer, Dillon will be making his first appearance in regional play.

"I am excited overall and just looking forward to getting out there and trying to help the team," Dillon said. "I worked in the conference tournament so I don't really feel like there is any added pressure at this point."

Dillon has fashioned a 9-1 record on the season. His only loss came in his last start against Newberry College. Dillon leads the Trojans with 60 strikeouts and has posted a 2.53 earned run average.

"I'm the kind of guy that wants to be out there every single game," Dillon said. "I want the ball and I am ready whenever the coaches decide that it's my turn."

After Dillon, the Trojans will likely look to senior Jake Moser to eat some innings. Moser leads the team in innings pitched (95) and boasts a 3.02 ERA. The tall right-hander gave the coaches a shot of confidence at the Conference Carolinas tournament where he delivered a complete-game performance in a win over North Greenville University.

"Moser really threw the ball well at the conference tournament and he is a capable guy," Sherrer said. "He is a guy that can take the ball and give us a good outing almost every time out."

Mount Olive's third starter in the regional will likely be Zach Smith. As a junior, Smith has built an 8-2 record on the mound which includes four complete games. His earned run average is a team-leading 2.31.

Smith, Moser and Dillon have combined to throw 252 innings over 37 starts. The trio has pitched nearly 60 percent of the innings this season.

"Those three guys have been huge all season," Sherrer said. "As we get into the regional we know that we will be seeing our opponent's best arm each time and we have confidence that we can match them."

Should the Trojans need a fourth starter in the four-day regional, the call will be made to either Derek Justice, Talton Cherry or Skyler Sopotnik. Justice emerged the winning pitcher in the Conference Carolinas tournament championship over Erskine. The freshman delivered eight solid innings in just his second collegiate start.

Cherry, a junior from Greenville, has started three games and carries a 3.08 ERA. Sopotnik has made three starts on the season and has also appeared 12 times in relief. His record is 3-0 overall.

"It's no secret that we have been using the same six or seven arms pretty consistently," Sherrer said. "This time of year you never know how many guys are going to have to throw in order to win four games over four days. If we have to go deeper into the bullpen, we have confidence that those guys can do the job, too."