MOUNT OLIVE, NC - Alex Regan tossed eight-strong innings and the top-seeded/seventh-ranked Mount Olive Trojans posted a five spot in the bottom of the fourth to push past the Railsplitters 9-3 on Thursday in the opening round of the 2013 NCAA Division II Baseball Southeast Regional, which is being held in Mount Olive, North Carolina at Scarborough Field.
Lincoln Memorial University falls to 26-25 on the season with the loss, setting up an elimination game at 11 a.m. tomorrow morning against the five seed, Georgia College, who fell to USC Aiken on a walk-off grand slam in the 3 o'clock game on Thursday. Top-seeded Mount Olive (47-6) moves on to face No. 3 Armstrong Atlantic at 3 p.m. on Friday.
LMU starter Brandon Cowan struggled to find the zone in the opening frame, following a one-out double by Bradon Reitano by hitting two batters and issuing a walk to Will Bynum to push a run across for the Trojans.
The Railsplitters quickly answered that run, taking advantage of a two-out error by the Mount Olive second baseman to score a pair of runs in the top of the second. Following the error on Nick Morabito's grounder, Josh Coker hustled down the line to beat out a slow roller to the shortstop to put the Railsplitters in business. From there, Nolan Woody slugged a double into the left-center field to drive LMU in front, 2-1.
Cowan settled into a groove in the second and third innings, setting the Trojans down in order in the second and pitching around a two-out walk in the third to keep LMU atop the scoreboard through the first third of the contest.
In the fourth frame, Mount Olive regained command of the board behind a five-run outburst on five hits, four of which came with two outs. Mike Mercurio notched the big hit of that stanza by pounding a three-run double over the outstretched arm of left fielder Josh Coker. Mercurio's hit was bookended by run-scoring singles from Matt Petrone and Jermaine Berry, as the Trojans galloped out to a 6-2 advantage.
After allowing four hits total in the first three innings, Mount Olive starter Alex Regan handcuffed the Railsplitters over his next five innings of work, surrendering only three combined hits over that span to keep LMU at bay.
The Railsplitters only other run of the ballgame came in the top of the sixth, as the Trojans' shortstop made an errant thrown on a potential double-play ball to allow Andre Rodriguez to come around to score and cut the deficit to 6-3. However, Regan forced Josh Coker to ground into a 4-6-3 twin killing in the next at-bat to halt any further damage in the sixth.
The Trojans tacked on three more runs in the home half sixth to widen the gap. Mike Mercurio drove in his fourth run of the night with a single, Jermaine Berry followed suit with an RBI single in the next at-bat, and a miscue by the LMU shortstop pushed the final run of the game across the dish.
Alex Regan would cap his stellar outing without allowing a run despite surrendering a single in both the seventh and eighth frames. All told, Regan tossed eight innings of seven-hit, three-run ball with seven strikeouts and no walks. None of the three runs credited to Regan's stat ledger were earned. He improves to 14-1 on the season with the victory, matching the Mount Olive record for single-season victories.
Talton Cherry came on in relief in the top of the ninth to close out the victory for the Trojans. Cherry allowed back-to-back singles to Josh Coker and Nolan Woody to lead off the inning, but shut the door with a fielder's choice, a strikeout and foul out in the next three at-bats.
Senior Brandon Cowan was saddled with the loss on the mound for the Railsplitters after allowing eight hits and nine runs (eight earned) in 5.2 innings of work. He issued five walks and hit two batters to drop to 5-3 on the season. Austin Pittman provided 2.2 innings of three-hit, no-run work in relief for Lincoln Memorial.
Josh Coker and Nolan Woody provided four of the Railsplitters' nine hits as a team, as they each tallied a pair of hits. Woody's two RBI paced the Railsplitters' run production. Four other hitters (Scott Miller, Curt Fuqua, Andre Rodriguez, Nick Pressley) notched one hit in the contest.
Jermaine Berry led the Trojans with three hits and two RBI, while Mike Mercurio tallied a game-high four RBI on two hits. Bradon Reitano scored three times in the game. Colby Conway also chimed in with three hits and a pair of runs in the nine hole.