BURLINGTON, N.C. – After winning its first two games of the Conference Carolinas Tournament, the King University baseball team lost to top-seeded and 12th-ranked University of Mount Olive 6-4 to fall into the loser's bracket.
King (23-28-1) will now have to win three games over the next two days to claim the conference championship. The Tornado will face the winner of tonight's Barton vs. Erskine matchup in an elimination game Sunday at noon. The winner of that game will need to beat Mount Olive (39-11) Sunday at 3:00 p.m. and again on Monday at 11:00 a.m. to win the conference title, while the Trojans will only need to win once to take the championship and claim the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Continuing its momentum from a win over Erskine earlier in the day, King's ninth consecutive victory, the Tornado jumped out to an early 3-0 lead. After a scoreless first inning, singles by JD Wallace and Justin Trent put two runners on base with two outs for Garrett Cook. On a 2-2 pitch, Cook hit an absolute no-doubt shot to left field that gave King the early advantage.
But the Trojans answered in the bottom of the frame, pulling to within a run on a Justin Manning home run and a Zak Orrison RBI single. Mount Olive then took the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning after pitcher Derek Justice retired seven consecutive Tornado batters. The biggest blow came on a King error that allowed the Trojans to plate two runs. Mount Olive also scored on an RBI single and a bases-loaded walk to turn its deficit into a 6-3 advantage.
Justice threw a complete game for the Trojans, allowing four King runs on seven hits with six strikeouts. He allowed just five Tornado baserunners over the game's final seven innings and tossed four 1-2-3 frames. King starter Reiss Stanley also threw a complete game, giving up three earned runs of his six total and totaling nine strikeouts on 143 pitches. Geoff Cieslewitz and Justin Trent both had multi-hit games for the Tornado.