Nationally 22nd-ranked University of Mount Olive saw an early eight-run lead cut down to two before relief pitcher Jose Serrano‘s strikeout in the bottom of the ninth clinched a 12-10 win over No. 17 Catawba and win number 1,000 for Trojan head baseball coach Carl Lancaster Tuesday at Salisbury, N.C. Lancaster becomes only the fourth active Division II baseball coach and the 14th Division II baseball coach overall to reach the 1,000-win mark.
An emotional – and Gatorade-soaked – paid tribute to those who helped him get to his milestone.
“First, I want to thank the late Dr. Burkett Raper and Jimmy Williams for taking a chance on me,” said Lancaster, who is in his 28th year at Mount Olive. Dr. Raper was president and Williams was athletics director at the time Lancaster began his career at Mount Olive. “I also want to thank all of the current and former players who were responsible for this day.”
Lancaster continued, “I want to thank my coaching staff: Rob (Watt), Jason (Sheerer) and Jesse (Lancaster). They’re the best. I also want to thank (current UMO athletics director) Jeff Eisen. He’s been great to work for.”
Mount Olive (21-9) was 3-6 in its last nine games heading into Tuesday’s contest. Lancaster was more concerned about the team moving in the right direction than he was of his milestone.
“I don’t know how much the team thought about it (1,000 wins) and I never said anything,” said Lancaster. “Now we need to focus on getting back on track.
Mount Olive’s offense wasted no time, scoring four runs in the top of the fourth and giving starting pitcherJordy Farthing (3-1) a lead before throwing his first pitch. The Trojans loaded the bases with nobody out and scored the first two runs on a sacrifice fly and an error. Stephen Wallace capped the scoring with a two-run double.
After Catawba (23-5) answered with two runs in the bottom of the first, Joe Koehler‘s two-run homer capped a four-run second inning for Mount Olive. Kilgore Gailmard added a two-run double in the top of the third to extend the Trojans’ lead to 10-2 after 2 1/2 innings.
Catawba’s Will Albertson hit a pair of solo home runs and the Indians’ bullpen limited Mount Olive to a single run over the next four runs. Zak Orrison tagged from third in the top of the fifth to turn a foul out just beyond the first base bag into a sacrifice fly.
Catawba, which came into the game on a 12-game winning streak, added two runs in the sixth and seventh innings to cut Mount Olive’s lead to 11-8. Right fielder Tyler Farmer‘s defensive play on a sharp line drive turned a potential two-run extra-base hit into a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh.
The Trojans added a run in the top of the eighth when Jason Morozowski singled, advanced to second on a failed pickoff attempt and scored on Justin Manning‘s line single to right. Catawba answered with a run in the bottom of the eighth.
Serrano, who took over in the seventh, retired the first two batters in the bottom of the ninth on a groundout to second and a flyout to center. The Trojans’ celebration was delayed when Blake Houston homered to center. But Serrano got a called third strike to seal the win and Trojan baseball history.
Serrano earned his second save of the season, both coming against nationally ranked teams.
Lancaster admits he didn’t feel that even an eight-run lead was safe against Catawba.
“Catawba’s an outstanding team and they score a lot of runs,” said Lancaster. “I’m proud of our guys for hanging in there.”
Mount Olive returns home this weekend as the Trojans play host to Emmanuel in a three-game Conference Carolinas series. The two teams play a single game Friday at 6 p.m. and a doubleheader Saturday beginning at noon at Scarborough Field.
Before getting on the team bus to head home, Lancaster downplayed the milestone.
“This many wins just means that I’m old,” joked Lancaster.