Top-Ranked Trojans Hold Off Francis Marion 7-5 - 18th Consecutive Win

Top-Ranked Trojans Hold Off Francis Marion 7-5 - 18th Consecutive Win

 Jermaine Berry, Geno Escalante and Bradon Reitano belted home runs and reliever Talton Cherry shut down an eighth inning rally as nationally top-ranked Mount Olive extended its winning streak to 18 with a 7-5 victory over Francis Marion in non-conference baseball Tuesday at Scarborough Field. With the victory, Mount Olive matches its 2008 school record for reaching the 40-win mark in the fewest number of games.

Prior to the game, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held commemorating the addition of stadium seating to Scarborough Field. In addition, a moment of silent prayer was held for the victims of Monday's explosions at the Boston Marathon.

Mount Olive (40-4) rallied from an early deficit to build a 7-2 lead after Berry blasted a three-run homer high over the left field fence in the bottom of the seventh. Berry's home run was his second of the season.

Trojan starter Chris Orphanos (8-0) retired 14 of his last 17 batters going into the top of the eighth before Francis Marion (22-16) capitalized on an infield error to score three unearned runs. Orphanos allowed a leadoff walk and a one-out single before giving way to Josh Frederick. An error led to the first run of the inning, but Frederick prevented a run when he threw a runner out at the plate on a short bouncer for the second out. But Stephen Johnson followed with a two-run single to left.

Cherry took over and got a strikeout looking to end the inning. He retired the first two batters before Brett Fulmer kept the game alive with a pinch-hit single. But Trojan second baseman Zak Orrison fielded a grounder up the middle and stepped on second for the force to end the game. Cherry's save was his first of the season.

After spotting Francis Marion a run in the top of the second, Mount Olive evened the score 1-1 as Escalante led off the bottom of the second by driving a 3-0 pitch opposite field over the right field fence for his team-leading ninth home run of the season. The Trojans had more scoring opportunities, but Francis Marion turned three double plays in the first five innings.

Francis Marion answered in the top of the third as singles by Jarrod Reed and Isaac Davenport gave the Patriots runners on the corners with nobody out. One out later, Will Chandler drove a pitch that appeared to be on its way out of the park, but Trojan left fielder Matt Petrone made the catch at the warning track and the Patriots had to settle for a sacrifice fly and a 2-1 lead.

The Patriots threatened to add to the lead in the top of the fifth with back-to-back singles to open the inning. After Orphanos retired the next two batters, Chandler drove a pitch to the gap in right-center, but Trojan centerfielder Bryan Dunlavey made a running diving catch to keep Mount Olive within a run.

In the bottom of the fifth, Petrone's safety squeeze drove in the tying run and Reitano followed with a two-run homer to give Mount Olive a 4-2 lead, its first lead of the night. Reitano's home run was his eighth of the year.

Mount Olive reached the 40-win mark for the fourth consecutive year and the sixth time in the last seven years. The Trojans went on to win the 2008 NCAA Division II Baseball National Championship after starting that season 40-4.

Mount Olive concludes regular season Conference Carolinas play this weekend as the Trojans travel to Misenheimer, N.C., for a three-game series. The two teams play a single game Friday at 3 p.m. and a doubleheader Saturday beginning at noon.