Nationally Ranked Teams To Square Off Tuesday At Newman Park


A total of 1,658 coaching victories will be on hand when two NCAA II nationally-ranked teams collide on Tuesday afternoon at Newman Park.  Catawba’s Jim Gantt has guided the Catawba Indians to 659 wins in his 19th year at the helm, while visiting coach Carl Lancaster is one win away from a milestone 1,000th victory, now in his 28th year at Mount Olive.

Catawba has been the hotter of the two mainstay Southeast Region powers.  The Indians have won 12 straight and 21 of 22 entering the contest and are ranked 17th by the Collegiate Baseball Poll.  Mount Olive is just 3-6 over its last nine and are 22nd in the poll.  The Trojans did split a pair of games with then seventh-ranked Franklin Pierce early last week.

There might not be a hotter hitter in the county than Catawba’s Will Albertson.  The junior is hitting .767 (33-of-44) in his last 10 games with eight doubles, a triple and six home runs.  He was the NCBWA Division II Hitter of the Week last week.  Albertson has raised his average to .514 during the stretch and leads the team with 11 homers and 45 RBI.

Albertson has the luxury of T.J. Wharton hitting behind him.  Wharton is sporting a .451 average and has seven home runs.  Leadoff man Blake Houston is batting .432 with an on-base percentage of .548.  He leads the team with 27 walks and has scored 41 runs.  Houston tied a school record by scoring six runs at Anderson Friday night and set a new mark by drawing five walks.

Craig Brooks continues to anchor the pitching staff, allowing just 26 hits over 52 innings.  He is 5-1 with a 1.38 ERA and has fanned 76 with only 15 walks.  Shaefer Shepard has posted a 6-1 record in eight starts with a 3.21 ERA.  Avery Bowles has been a solid reliever, sporting a 1.93 ERA over 14 innings.  He has a 2-0 record with a save.  Ryan McClintock has four saves in 12 appearances with a 2.77 ERA.

Like Catawba, Mount Olive has three batters hitting over .400.  Justin Manning heads the list with a .421 average.  Jason Morozowski follows with a .419 average and leads the team with nine homers and 41 RBI.  Zak Orrison comes in with a .414 average and leads the team with 19 stolen bases.  The Trojans have stolen 74 bases in 29 games.

Derek Justice has posted a 1.35 over five starts this year on the mound and has compiled a 4-1 record.  Gunnar Kines is 5-1 with a 3.49 ERA.  He has posted 58 strikeouts over 49 innings.  Jordy Farthing has been the #4 starter for Mount Olive and is coming off seven strong innings in a win over Franklin Pierce last Tuesday, allowing just four hits and two earned runs.  He is 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA on the season.

The Trojans hold a 26-21 edge in the all-time series with Catawba.  The Indians are 12-10 versus Mount Olive at Newman Park.  Catawba won all three meetings a year ago and knocked the Trojans out of the NCAA Southeast Regional with a 16-4 win in Greenwood, S.C.  The teams first met in 1986.

Catawba will face another nationally-ranked team on Wednesday as the Indians travel to BB&T Ballpark to face 26th-ranked Winston-Salem State.

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