02/18/13 — MOC's Lancaster notches 900th career win

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MOC's Lancaster notches 900th career win

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 18, 2013 1:47 PM

Sitting at the dinner table one evening, Jesse Lancaster began naming off players who have put on a Mount Olive College baseball uniform and helped the program achieve national prominence.

The names and seasons, admittedly, had run together for head coach Carl Lancaster.

Most of the players Jesse ticked off on each finger were a building block in the foundation that has led to the reputation the program has today. The ride has been long, the headaches have been many and the talent has been rich.

But neither Jesse nor his dad will forget Saturday afternoon.

As snowflakes drifted down and dotted the Scarborough Field grass, coach Lancaster notched career win No. 900 in game two of a doubleheader against No. 24-ranked Le Moyne (N.Y.) College. Left-hander Alex Regan threw a complete-game shutout and the No. 1-ranked Trojans celebrated Lancaster's achievement on the pitcher's mound.

"I never dreamed I would have a career that I've been able to have," said Lancaster, who is 900-403-1 in his career. "I've got a lot of people to thank for that, not only administrative people, but by gosh, there's a ton of talented players who have come through here.

"There's no question there has been some headaches, all of us have experienced that. The bottom line is we've had more good days than we've had bad days."

According to the NCAA record books, Lancaster is the 20th coach in Division II history to reach the 900-win plateau. He ranks seventh nationally for career wins at a four-year school and is 16th nationally in winning percentage (.691).

The Trojans have won an unprecedented 22 conference championships in regular-season and tournament play combined in the program's Division II era. MOC has appeared in 11 regionals and advanced to the College World Series on two occasions, including winning it all in 2008.

The program has produced two national players-of-the-year, 20 All-Americans and two current Major Leaguers -- Carter Capps and Tom Layne.

Lancaster and his coaching staff -- Jesse, Rob Watt and Jason Sherrer -- has sustained the mind-boggling success despite working with just five scholarships each season. Lancaster had just 2 1/2 scholarships to use during the program's NAIA days before it moved to Division II in 1996.

The coaches recruit quality players who are excellent students in the classroom and meet the stringent requirements set by the admissions office. It's also not unusual to see JUCO players migrate to Mount Olive because of the program's reputation.

"When we're sitting in a player's living room, we make no bones about it with mom and dad that we're not here to recruit headaches," Lancaster said. "I think, over the years, we've turned out some very good alumni, some very good citizens who are proud they were Mount Olive students and baseball players. That goes a long way in terms of the environment of the college.

"A lot of people want to come play in our program and they feel like we give them their best shot to reach the next level. They get a chance to play a bunch of baseball games and possibly get a (championship) ring."

Faded photographs of previous MOC teams hang on the wall in the baseball office.

One player, however, sticks in Lancaster's mind.

A former pitcher turned full-time catcher, Steve Mintz joined the Trojans in the early 1990s. The Louisburg College standout had hoped to turn pro, but wasn't drafted.

"We met, hit it off and were immediately comfortable with each other," Lancaster said. "I made it clear we needed a marquee guy in our program and I told him he was that marquee player. That was the one sign, no doubt in my mind, about when the program began to turn the corner. When he came to us, people were saying 'something is changing over there' and that's when we started getting a little better quality guy in our program because of Mintz."

The Trojans advanced to the NAIA World Series in 1991.

Five years later, they jumped to Division II and school administrators asked Lancaster if Mount Olive could compete on the national stage. The Trojans made five consecutive South Atlantic Regional trips from 1996-2000.

MOC finished South Atlantic runner-up with Layne on the pitching staff in 2007 and completed its magical national championship run one year later. The Trojans tied for third at the 2011 CWS with Capps aboard.

"We got guys to help solidify a program that was going to be a consistent winner year in and year out," Lancaster said. "I've never won a game. I give full credit to the (assistant) coaches and all of the players who have come through here."