Ryan Schlecht remained unbeaten and moved back into a tie for first in the nation in wins with a complete game four-hitter to lead No. 1 seed and nationally top-ranked Mount Olive to a 6-2 victory over No. 4 seed North Georgia in the second round of the NCAA Division II Baseball South Atlantic Regional Friday at Scarborough Field on the campus of Mount Olive College. Erik Lovett belted a solo home run and Dylan Holton provided insurance with an eighth-inning rbi-triple.
The win advances Mount Olive to the winner’s bracket final Saturday at 11 a.m. against the winner of Friday night’s game between No. 2 seed Columbus State and No. 3 seed USC Aiken. North Georgia, which is in its first year of eligibility for NCAA Division II Championship play after reclassifying from NAIA, is eliminated from the regional.
Mount Olive (51-5), which was the designated visiting team, took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first as each of the Trojans’ first three batters reached base. David Cooper drew a leadoff walk, went to second when Jesse Lancaster was hit by a pitch and scored on Alex Vertcnik’s opposite-field single through the left side. North Georgia shortstop Anders Oster made a leaping grab and Jason Sherrer’s high hopper to turn a potential rbi-single into a 6-4-3 double play. Saints starter Michael Patton (7-3) got out of the jam with a strikeout.
Cooper scored the Trojans’ second run of the game in the top of the third after reaching on a bunt pop-up that landed beyond the pitcher’s mound between first and second. Cooper advanced to third on a single by Lancaster and scored when Lancaster induced a rundown.
Schlecht (13-0) retired the first two batters in the bottom of the third before North Georgia loaded the bases on consecutive singles by Logan Sharrett and Rob Flanigan and a walk to Andre Airich. But Schlecht escaped on a force at second. In the bottom of the fourth and a runner on first with nobody out, Trojan centerfielder Josh Harrison robbed Petitti of an extra-base hit with a long running catch in the gap in left-center.
The Trojans made it 3-0 when Lovett led off the fourth with a towering opposite-field home run over the left field fence. The home run was Lovett’s 15th of the season and 37th of his career.
North Georgia (41-21) got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth when Craig Brisson was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and stole second with two outs. Brisson came home on Airich’s line single to center to pull the Saints within 3-1.
Schlecht finished the fifth inning with a strikeout and performed a statistical oddity by striking out all four batters he faced in the sixth inning. Daniel Petitti reached on a third-strike passed ball. Schlecht pitched a three up-three down inning in the seventh and retired the side in order on five pitches in the eighth.
Mount Olive added a run in the top of the seventh as Anthony Williams led off with a single and went to second on Cooper’s sacrifice. After left-handed batter Vertcnik was intentionally walked with two outs, Jason Sherrer drove the first pitch down the left field line for a single to plate Williams and extend the Trojans’ lead to 4-1.
Racobaldo singled to lead off the eighth and Holton drove a pitch to the wall in right-center for his fifth triple of the season to make the score 5-1. Holton scored on Williams’ single to left.
North Georgia put runners on first and with nobody out in the top of the ninth as Petitti reached on an error and Oster singled to right-center. After Schlecht recorded his ninth strikeout of the game, Petitti scored an unearned run on a force out. The game ended on a line out to Vertcnik in right on Schlecht’s 126th pitch.
The win moves Schlecht back into a first-place tie in victories with Columbus State pitcher Korey Noles, who also improved to 13-0 in the Cougars’ first-round win Thursday.
“Schlecht was good, like he has been all year. Harrison made a huge catch. Dylan and Ant (Anthony Williams) had big hits for us. We beat a very good ballclub today.”
Mount Olive head coach Carl Lancaster
“I wouldn’t call it a rivalry because we haven’t met or faced each other. But I was aware he got his 13th win yesterday and I wanted to get number 13 today.”
Mount Olive pitcher Ryan Schlecht on moving back into a tie for first in the nation in victories with Columbus State pitcher Korey Noles.
“I felt like I was hitting the ball hard and didn’t get down on myself.”
Mount Olive designated hitter Dylan Holton on his rbi-triple after starting off 0-for-2.
“I’m very proud of our team’s accomplishments this year. We were 18-16 and won 23 of 26 to get here. I think we made a statement in our first eligible year in the NCAA Tournament.”
North Georgia head coach Tom Cantrell.