MOUNT OLIVE, N.C. – Alex Vertcnik went 4-for-4 with seven runs batted in and tied a school record with three home runs to lead nationally top-ranked Mount Olive to a rain-shortened 17-4 victory over Coker in Conference Carolinas baseball Sunday at Scarborough Field. Erik Lovett and Jason Sherrer also homered, while Michael Williams recorded 10 strikeouts and posted a complete game win. The game was called after 5 1/2 innings.
One day after suffering its first conference loss of the season and having its 26-game winning streak against conference opponents snapped, Mount Olive (36-4 overall, 17-1 Conference Carolinas) clinched its 16th consecutive conference series, dating back to 2006.
The Trojans jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first as David Cooper led off with a single and Sherrer was hit by a pitch two outs later. Vertcnik fell behind 0-2, then drove a pitch over the right field fence.
Williams (7-0) retired the first seven batters before Ricky Deleandro singled with one out in the top of the third. Williams struck out the next batter, but Coker (13-26, 4-17) loaded the bases on a hit batsman and a walk, and Julio Gomez tied the game with a bases-clearing double to right-center. Gomez came home on Will Poole’s single to put the Cobras ahead 4-3.
The lead was short-lived as Lovett led off the bottom of the third with his 20th double of the season and Sherrer followed with a two-run homer to left. Vertcnik made it back-to-back home runs with another drive over the right field fence to give the Trojans a 6-4 lead.
Rich Racobaldo singled on a line shot that hit Coker pitcher Chris Thomas on the ankle. Dylan Holton tripled down the right field line as Mount Olive’s first five batters of the inning combined to hit for the cycle. Holton came home on Josh Harrison’s sacrifice fly to make the score 8-4.
Cooper kept the inning alive with a two-out single and after stealing second, came home on Jesse Lancaster’s double to left. Lovett then sent a pitch high over the right field fence to cap an eight-run inning and extend the Trojans’ lead to 11-4. Lovett and Sherrer are tied for the team lead in home runs with 11 apiece.
Vertcnik led off the bottom of the fourth with a single up the middle and came home on Racobaldo’s double. Harrison singled home Racobaldo to give Mount Olive a 13-4 lead.
Lancaster singled to lead off the bottom of the fifth and Lovett followed with his second double of the game. Sherrer’s single brought home Lancaster and Vertcnik connected on his third home run of the game and second three-run shot to cap the scoring.
The 17 runs are the most in a game for Mount Olive this year and the Trojans matched a season high with 19 hits. Lovett and Racobaldo had three hits apiece as every Trojan batter had at least one hit. Eleven of the 19 hits went for extra bases.
Vertcnik’s three home runs tie a school record originally set by Carl Whittington in 2003 and matched by Steve Parrish in 2004. Parrish’s three home runs also came against Coker. Vertcnik entered the game with two home runs on the season.
Williams finished with a four-hitter, retiring 10 of the final 12 batters he faced. Williams came within one strikeout of tying a school single-game record.
Mount Olive takes a break from its regular season schedule as the Trojans travel to Kinston, N.C., Tuesday to take on the Kinston Indians in an exhibition game. The Kinston Indians are an advanced Single-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. Game time is 7 p.m. at Grainger Stadium. The Trojans resume conference play with a three-game series Friday and Saturday at nationally 15th-ranked Erskine.
Coker travels to Benedict Tuesday at 6 p.m. for a non-conference match-up.