Top-seeded and nationally top-ranked Mount Olive's quest for a fourth consecutive conference championship came to an end as the Trojans dropped a pair of games in the 2013 Conference Carolinas Baseball Tournament Saturday at Burlington, N.C. The Trojans fell to No. 3 seed King 6-4 Saturday afternoon in the winner's bracket final, then fell to second-seeded Coker Saturday night in an elimination game.
The two losses put the Trojans' record at 45-6. Mount Olive, which entered Saturday's play with a 23-game winning streak and ranked No. 1 in the NCAA Division II Southeast Region Poll each of the past two weeks, hopes to earn an at-large bid to the Southeast Regional of the NCAA Division II Baseball Championship.
In Saturday's opening game against King, Bradon Reitano's two-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth kept the game alive, but Mount Olive had its 23-game winning streak come to an end. The loss also snapped the Trojans' streak of 14 consecutive conference tournament games won, dating back to the 2010 tournament.
Mount Olive trailed by five runs and was held scoreless until getting on the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth. Matt Petrone and Reitano opened the inning with back-to-back singles, but the Trojans had to settle for just a single run after consecutive groundouts.
After two Trojan errors led to a run for King in the top of the eighth, Mount Olive answered in the bottom of the eighth as Jermaine Berry's rbi-single cut the Tornado's lead to 6-2. The Trojans had the bases loaded with one out, but King reliever Alex Martin helped his own cause by triggering a 1-2-3 double play to end the inning.
Zak Orrison started a ninth-inning rally with a one-out double and Reitano followed one out later with his second home run of the tournament and 10th of the season. But Martin got a groundout to short to end the game and earn the save.
King (31-18) took a 3-0 lead in the top of the third on Jose Sola's leadoff home run and Steven Todoschuck's two-run shot. Carl Roberts added a two-run single in the top of the fifth to extend the Tornado's lead to 5-0.
Trojan starter Zach Smith (2-1) entered the game with a 0.66 earned run average in eight appearances after injuries limited his innings this season, but was taken out in the third inning. Derek Justice threw 5 1/3 innings in relief and Talton Cherry pitched the final 1 1/3 innings.
King starter Reiss Stanley (5-3) limited Mount Olive to a run and four hits through six innings.
Against Coker, Mount Olive broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the eighth when Orrison led off with a double and scored on Mike Mercurio's two-out single to give the Trojans a 3-2 lead. Coker tied the game in the bottom of the eighth on T.J. Giczkowski's rbi-double and the Cobras loaded the bases with nobody out. Frank Suarez's two-run double put Coker ahead to stay.
The Trojans put together a rally in the top of the ninth as pinch-hitters Bretton Gouthro and Luke Berry drew one-out walks. Gouthro scored on Petrone's two-out rbi-single to bring the tying run to the plate. But Coker relief pitcher Zach Loraine got a strikeout for the final out.
This year's tournament marked the first time since 2009 and only the second time in the last 10 years Mount Olive failed to reach the championship game. The Trojans had won 14 consecutive conference tournament games, dating back to the 2010 tournament.
Mount Olive's 23-game winning streak is tied for the second longest winning streak in school history and is two games shy of matching the Trojans' all-time longest winning streak.
NCAA Tournament bids will be announced May 12, with the Southeast Regional taking place May 16-19. Mount Olive College and Town of Cary will co-host the National Finals for the fifth consecutive year May 25-June 1 at USA Baseball National Training Center in Cary, N.C.
Mount Olive has one regular season contest remaining prior to the NCAA Tournament announcement as the Trojans play host to Winston-Salem State May 5 at Scarborough Field. Winston-Salem State is ranked No. 2 in this week's NCAA II Atlantic Region Poll. Game time is 1 p.m.