May 19, 2008
MOUNT OLIVE, N.C.--Not even Mother Nature could slow down Mount Olive’s offense as the top-seeded and top-ranked Trojans (54-6) took two games from #10 USC Aiken (47-17) to claim the program’s first-ever trip to the NCAA Division II College World Series on Monday. Advancing to the South Atlantic Region Championship game undefeated, the Pacers fell 13-2 on Sunday to Mount Olive, resulting in an “if necessary” winner-take-all contest. After heavy rain forced suspension of the contest in the eighth inning Sunday night, the game resumed Monday with the Trojans winning 8-3.
“We came out this morning and played hard,” said USC Aiken head coach Kenny Thomas, in his ninth season at the helm. “They just got some hits, they battled and got some through the infield. Give them credit for getting the job done. They are a good ball club and we just didn’t have enough.”
USC Aiken is now 1-1 in opportunities to advance to the College World Series, defeating Francis Marion 13-2 back on May 22, 1993. The loss also snaps a streak of 15-straight years a Peach Belt Conference school has captured the regional crown.
In game one on Sunday, Mount Olive raced to an 8-0 lead through three innings and never looked back, going up 13-1 after the fifth. Gary Asbill’s sacrifice fly in the fifth frame was the lone Pacer RBI.
Jason Sherrer and Erik Lovett each tallied three RBI to lead the Trojans to the 13-2 victory.
With the “if necessary” championship game set to begin at 4:45 PM on Sunday, the Pacers trotted Scott Wandless back out on the mound as USC Aiken got off to a much better start in the nightcap. Wandless, coming off just three days rest after a dominating complete game shutout victory over #14 North Georgia in the regional opener, tossed 110 pitches.
The Pacers got on the board in the second inning on an RBI single down the right field line by John Sherrer to grab a 1-0 advantage. However, as would be the story all game, the timely hit never came. Cody McMorris was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out, but both Jamie Benjamin and Chad Jacobsen popped out to end the threat.
USC Aiken left 14 runners on base. For the five games in the tournament, the Pacers struggled to a .227 batting average, nearly 100 points lower than their .322 season average.
Rich Racobaldo tied the game at 1-1 with an RBI single in the top of the third, only to have the Pacers regain a one run edge on a Chris Grandinetti RBI single. But again, USC Aiken would leave the bases loaded as McMorris grounded out to first base.
Racobaldo finished 4-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored.
Sherrer had the lone multi-hit game for the Pacers finished 2-for-2 with one walk and an RBI.
Another Racobaldo RBI single in the fifth put Mount Olive ahead for the first time in the contest 3-2. After a scoreless sixth inning, the Trojans got an insurance run in the seventh on Alex Vertcnik’s ground-rule double.
Heavy rains moved into the area and forced the suspension of the game at 7:09 PM as officials eventually decided to push the conclusion of the contest to Monday at 11:00 AM. With a runner on second and no outs in the eighth, Mount Olive picked up on Monday by plating Erik Lovett and then tacking on three in the ninth.
Nick Aranas’ solo shot in the ninth made it 8-3, but then Ryan Schlecht (1) sat the Pacers down in order to complete the six-out save.
Todd Jeffreys (5-1) earned the win allowing no runs on two hits and two walks in 2.1 innings of relief.
Wandless (9-3) suffered the loss for the Pacers scattering 11 hits, surrendering five earned runs, striking out five and not walking a batter in 7.0 innings. The senior lefthander concludes his outstanding Pacer career with a 27-6 record. Fellow senior Peden Rucker, who tossed 1.1 innings of work in relief, closed his magnificent career 30-13.
The 47 wins by USC Aiken is the most of the program’s NCAA era, and is the third highest win total in the 36-year history of the program. USCA shattered numerous school records in the process.
Ken Raborn and Wandless were named to the All-Tournament team for USC Aiken while Mount Olive received eight of the 12 spots.