04/18/13 — MOC softball team eyes regional berth

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MOC softball team eyes regional berth

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

BURLINGTON -- Mount Olive doesn't seek redemption.

The Trojans just want to compete at the highest level possible.

It's a mindset that pleases 11th-year head softball coach Jaime Kylis, whose team opens the 2013 Conference Carolinas tournament against seventh-seeded Erskine (S.C.) on Friday afternoon.

First pitch is noon at Springwood Park.

In other opening-round games, defending champion and top-seeded King faces eighth-seeded Pfeiffer; third-seeded Limestone opposes sixth-seeded North Greenville and fourth-seeded Queens meets fifth-seeded Coker.

The double-elimination tournament concludes Sunday with the winner earning the automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional.

"I like my kids' mentality this week," Kylis said. "They have the mindset of it's not necessarily about what we haven't done in the past, but about doing the best we can do. They're loose and relaxed, taking it practice by practice.

"It's anybody's tournament and that's what makes this year so fun, I think. Even Pfeiffer, they have upset some people this year. Anything can happen, especially in tournament play."

Second-seeded Mount Olive (28-12 overall) split with Erskine during regular-season play. The Flying Fleet (14-22-2) won the first game in eight innings and the Trojans claimed a mercy-rule victory in the nightcap.

Kylis anticipates seeing Erskine right-hander Kelsey Spurrier inside the pitcher's circle. The senior from Charlotte has compiled a 10-11 record and 2.19 earned run average (ERA) in a team-leading 134.3 innings of work.

Spurrier has thrown 14 complete games.

The Flying Fleet bats .261 as a team and has just one batter, Larissa Shannon, hitting better than .300. One of seven seniors, Shannon leads the team in nearly every offensive statistical category.

"Erskine is a scrappy team, aggressive ... fighters, they just don't stay down," Kylis said. "It's a fun rivalry and always a fun game. We know it's going to be a battle and there are not going to be any surprises."

MOC right-hander Carly White could get the starting nod for game one. The junior from Shallotte is 12-4 with a 1.43 ERA, and has tossed 107.3 innings this season. The Trojans' pitching staff has the league's top team ERA at 2.25.

Mount Olive ranks either first or second in 11 conference statistical categories. But all those numbers mean nothing this weekend. The Trojans entered the 2012 tournament as the No. 1 seed and exited 0-2 after they suffered back-to-back one-run defeats.

"Honestly, it doesn't matter who we play, all that matters is just winning that first game from a mentality standpoint," Kylis said.