Geno Escalante homered and drove in four runs, and Zach Bernard picked up a save with two scoreless innings as nationally top-ranked held off North Greenville 7-4 in game one of a Conference Carolinas baseball doubleheader Sunday at Scarborough Field. The Trojans suffered their first loss of the year in game two, falling 6-4 in a game that was delayed 45 minutes during the seventh inning due to bulbs in the light fixtures going out.
In the first game, Mount Olive (12-1 overall, 1-1 Conference Carolinas) broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the second on Zak Orrison's two-out two-run double and Escalante capped the four-run inning with a two-run single. Escalante added an rbi-infield single in the fourth to give the Trojans a 5-0 lead.
The Trojans added an unearned run in the sixth when Bryan Dunlavey led off with a single, stole second and eventually scored on an error.
Trojan starter Matt Dillon (2-0) struck out nine and held North Greenville to three hits through six shutout innings before the Crusaders erupted in the seventh. Wade Wyatt's one-out rbi-double – North Greenville's third hit of the inning – put the Crusaders on the scoreboard. Cuyler McAuliffe drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and leadoff batter Taylor Hollifield followed with a two-run homer to cut Mount Olive's lead to 6-4.
Trojan reliever Talton Cherry took over for Dillon with two outs and a runner on first, and ended the inning with a flyout.
After a North Greenville pitching change, Escalante got one of the runs back in the bottom of the seventh, driving the first pitch of the inning over the left field fence for his third home run of the season.
North Greenville threatened again in the top of the eighth with back-to-back singles to start the inning. Bernard took over and got a strikeout for the first out, then got a ground ball to third as Jermaine Berry tagged the bag and threw to first for the inning-ending 5-3 double play.
Bernard overcame a leadoff single in the ninth with a 4-6-3 double play and got a force at second for the final out.
In the nightcap, scheduled for seven innings, North Greenville (4-6, 1-1) was three outs away from a win when light fixtures down the third base/left field line and behind the outfield fence in left field all went out. After a 32-minute delay, North Greenville reliever Allen Staton retired the first batter and was ahead 0-2 on the next batter when the light fixture behind the third base dugout went out again. After another delay of 13 minutes, Staton got a pair of flyouts to end the game.
Staton, who started the game playing second base, sparked North Greenville's offense with three doubles and four runs batted in. Staton's two-run double highlighted a three-run first inning and the Crusaders led wire-to-wire. Staton also had rbi-doubles in the third and fifth innings.
Mount Olive capitalized on three hit batsmen and an error to score two runs in the bottom of the first without benefit of a hit. The Trojans were held hitless by North Greenville starting pitcher Andrew Lawrence (1-1) until Oliver and Orrison started the fourth inning with back-to-back singles. Lawrence threw Oliver out at third on a sacrifice attempt before Cody Britt singled home Orrison to pull the Trojans with 4-3.
The Trojans answered a North Greenville run with a run in the bottom of the fifth on Orrison's rbi-single, Mount Olive's third hit of the inning. But Staton held the Trojans hitless over the final two innings for his second save of the season.
Mount Olive starter Alex Regan (3-1) suffered his first loss as a Trojan.
Mount Olive's 12-0 start marked the second time in the last four years the Trojans won more than 10 games to start the season. The Trojans began the 2010 season with a 16-0 mark. The school record for best start, as well as longest winning streak overall, is 25 consecutive wins to open the 1999 season.
The three-game series was originally scheduled for this past Friday and Saturday, but was pushed back due to rain. Mount Olive and North Greenville conclude their series with a single nine-inning game Monday at 2:30 p.m.