05/15/13 — Berry, Oliver have put up 'quiet' numbers for MOC this season

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Berry, Oliver have put up 'quiet' numbers for MOC this season

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 15, 2013 1:47 PM

Steady defense, good plate approaches and consistent work on each pitch has been Mount Olive's calling card on the baseball diamond most of this season.

The Trojans' success can be traced to their middle infielders and their two "rocks" on the corners -- third baseman Jermaine Berry and first baseman Daniel Oliver. Each goes about their business and neither says much.

They are who they are.

And head coach Carl Lancaster certainly isn't complaining.

"In the classroom, they're 'A' students," grinned Lancaster. "In the community, they're guys who will help you carry groceries to your car ... the kind of guys who don't call too much attention to themselves in anything they do."

But don't think they aren't getting noticed.

Berry has started to appear on opposing coaches' scouting reports. The 5-foot-10, 220-pounder leads the Trojans with a .384 batting average and has driven in 53 runs this season.

A JUCO transfer who joined the program in 2012, Berry isn't a one-dimensional hitter in the batter's box. He sprays the ball around the park and has connected on 18 extra-base hits.

"I've been staying within myself, trying not to get too big and trying not to do too much," Berry said. "I just want to put the ball in play and get on base. I see a lot of off-speed (pitches). I've just got to wait for my pitch ... hopefully when I get my pitch, I can drive it.

"I just try to help my team out the best way I can."

Oliver has done the same.

A platoon player last season behind Daniel Coffey and two-time All-American Jake Rogers, Oliver saw limited playing time. He also suffered a back injury that further hampered the opportunity to get reps during mid-week games.

A soft-spoken and humble player, Oliver's numbers have doubled in some statistical categories since last season. Most noticeable are his batting average (from .222 to .325), hits (from 14 to 53) and RBI (from 17 to 42).

Defensively, Oliver has spearheaded a squad that's committed just 54 errors in 52 outings this season -- a vast improvement from last year's 82-error output in 54 total games.

"I came back this season in better physical shape," Oliver said. "Once I became physically better, it's been my mindset to stay that way. It's how you have to be in baseball because it's an up-and-down game.

"You can't get too high, you can't get too low. (You) have to stay on an even keel."

Oliver, Berry and their teammates definitely carry a chip on their shoulder this season. They remember last year's 0-2 showing in the regional and haven't forgotten the disappointment of a 2-2 performance in last month's Conference Carolinas tournament.

The Trojans (46-6 overall) are the top seed in the six-team Southeast Regional and one of the favorites to advance to the NCAA Division II College World Series.

"We want to come out and prove how good we really are," Oliver said. "We're going to have to play some of our best baseball, have good starting pitching and our offense really needs to click. We have to capitalize on the opportunities that we get offensively."