04/25/13 — Trojans seek 4-peat in Burlington

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Trojans seek 4-peat in Burlington

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 25, 2013 1:47 PM

BURLINGTON -- Talk about a wide-open race.

Any of the six teams who qualified for the 2013 Conference Carolinas baseball tournament are capable of winning the championship and advancing to the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional.

And Mount Olive, of course, wears the biggest target on its back when the double-elimination event begins today at Burlington Athletic Stadium. The No. 1-ranked and top-seeded Trojans (43-4 overall) oppose long-time nemesis Erskine at 7 p.m.

Third-seeded King (Tenn.) and fourth-seeded Belmont Abbey played at 11 this morning. Regular-season runner-up Coker and fifth-seeded Pfeiffer squared at off 3 p.m.

"The tournament is going to be interesting this year," MOC head coach Carl Lancaster said. "King has gotten hot here as of late, seems to be one of the better offensive teams in our league. Coker is going to get in there and give you a fit.

"I don't feel as comfortable going into this tournament as in past years. Several teams could win it."

Four of the six teams have captured at least one tournament championship since moving to the Division II ranks in 1996, but none have more than the Trojans. MOC is the three-time defending champion and seeks its eighth title overall since 2004.

"It's going to be a good tournament ... a good experience for our kids and will be a little more like a tournament atmosphere since we're getting out on the road and traveling," Lancaster said. "But don't get me wrong, I do miss the comforts of home."

After a long stay in Wilson, league officials moved the tournament to Burlington as part of an experimental spring sports festival.

Mount Olive is ranked No. 1 in the latest Southeast Region poll and should undoubtedly receive an at-large bid if it doesn't win the tournament.

The Trojans rank among the national team leaders in scoring, total runs, total hits, stolen bases, walks and on-base percentage. They have the nation's eighth-best batting average (.349) and three players -- Matt Petrone, Bradon Reitano and Geno Escalante -- rank among the top 11 in total runs scored.

Jermaine Berry leads MOC with a .399 batting average.

Matt Dillon and Alex Regan lead a pitching staff that compiled a 2.78 earned run average during conference play. Regan is the national leader in total wins (11) and has thrown seven complete games.

Dillon has nine wins and ranks seventh nationally with 84 total strikeouts. The senior shares the most starts (12) with Regan and owns a 1.81 ERA.

Mount Olive has won 21 straight games.

"I'm really looking forward to the tournament," Lancaster said. "It's going to be one of the better ones in terms of competition that we've had in a long while."