05/20/12 — Painter's late home run stuns Trojans

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Painter's late home run stuns Trojans

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on May 20, 2012 1:52 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Lander University freshman Colby Painter got the biggest hit of his young college baseball career and Lander upset Mount Olive on the opening day of the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional on Friday afternoon.

A last at-bat home run dealt the top-seeded Trojans a 7-4 loss.

After rain postponed their game on Thursday night, the Trojans and the Bearcats finally got underway and the result was a shocker.

Mount Olive starting pitcher Matt Dillon worked 82/3 innings and threw 178 pitches. With two outs in the top of the ninth and two runners on base, Dillon finally relented and the Trojans called on the bullpen with a 5-4 lead.

Chris Hinton entered the game to face Painter with runners on first and second. Painter promptly blasted the first pitch over the right-field fence into a bank of lights.

Lander led 7-5.

"I think I saw the ball a little bit better from a side-arm pitcher than I had earlier in the ballgame," Painter said. "With a new pitcher coming in I was looking hard for a first-pitch fastball and that is exactly what I got."

The long blast overshadowed a brilliant start by Dillon who battled through trouble in almost every inning and got out of two bases-loaded jams.

"That kid (Dillon) did an unbelievable job" Lander head coach Kermit Smith said. "He kept us off balance and he worked hard for eight-plus innings."

Antonio Callaway reached over the center-field fence and robbed the Bearcats' AJ Nunziato of a first-inning home run. Mike Mercurio's two-run single, after an outfield error, gave MOC a 2-0 lead in the second inning.

Lander answered with a two-run third. Nunziato drove in one run and three hit batsmen forced in the game-tying score.

"Dillon was not as sharp as he has been recently but he battled like crazy," Mount Olive head coach Carl Lancaster said. "He is one of the toughest kids I have ever coached and he was not going to give up on us"

Mount Olive regained the lead in the third inning when Jacob Rogers singled and Geno Escalante extended his hitting streak to 45 games with a double. Braden Reitano plated Rogers with a sacrifice fly that made the score 3-2.

Lander tied the game at 3-3 in the top of the fourth when Kevin Childs reached on an error. Jeff May singled and Colby Painter plated Childs with a single. The Bearcats threatened with the bases loaded and one out, but did not score as Dillon worked out of the jam with a pair of strikeouts.

Mount Olive regained the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Escalante singled and Jermaine Berry followed with a base hit. Nick Gaeta belted a sacrifice fly to make the score 4-3. Will Bynum added an RBI single in the seventh, two innings before Painter's homer deflated the Trojans.