Navy Drops Season Opener to Gardner-Webb
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - The Navy baseball team opened its 2018 season on Friday with action versus Gardner-Webb as part of a round-robin tournament at Wake Forest University. Playing at David F. Couch Ballpark, the Mids (0-1) and Runnin' Bulldogs (1-0) were locked in a 2-0 game through five innings before Gardner-Webb found its footing versus Navy's bullpen and tacked on 10 runs over the seventh and eighth innings to make it a 12-0 final score.
Individually, Noah Song (Jr., Claremont, Calif.) led Navy's pitching effort, while Stephen Born (Sr., Strafford, Pa.) was one of the Mids' top offensive players. Song went five innings on Friday and struck out nine Gardner-Webb batters, while allowing just two runs. At the plate, Born reached base twice in the first three innings with a single and hit by pitch.
"It's a 2-0 game through the sixth inning and was pretty well played from the standpoint of making plays and Noah throwing the ball well," remarked head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. "Then we gave up 10 in the last two innings so the final score is a bit skewed. It was combination of hits and walks, etc. Give them credit, they threw a pretty good guy out there, he was 92-93 for the majority of his start and then he was replaced by some other pretty good arms out of the pen."
Though unable to break through onto the scoreboard over the early happenings of the game, Navy kept the pressure on Gardner-Webb with runners on in each of the first three innings. Born was the main facilitator as the senior right fielder was hit by a pitch in the top of the first and later came through with a single to right in the top of the third. In his first Opening Day start, Liam Lowery (Jr., Williamsburg, Va.) left his mark in the boxscore in the top of the second with a single through the left side of the infield.
Over this stretch of the opening first three innings, Gardner-Webb took a 1-0 lead courtesy of a Chandler Redmond solo home run in the bottom of the second. That solo home run was one of the rare blemishes on Song's early start as he struck out five Bulldogs over the first three innings with two punch outs in both the first and second frames and one in the third.
In the top of the fourth inning, Navy had the potential to do some damage at the plate as the Mids loaded the bases on a leadoff walk to Jacob Williamson (So., Sims, N.C.), a one-out single by Evan Lowery (So., Williamsburg, Va.) and a two-out single by Alex Smith (So., Stafford, Va.), but Gardner-Webb withstood the threat and came away unscathed.
The Bulldogs' offense also looked to scratch out some runs of their own in the bottom half of that same frame and saw its first two batters reach base safely before Song took care of the issue himself with three consecutive strikeouts.
A single by Logan Knowles (Sr., Port Orchard, Wash.) extended Navy's streak of having a runner on base into the fifth with single through the right side.
Song's last inning of action was the fifth and Gardner-Webb sent him out with a single run coming home off of a sacrifice fly. The junior exited the game with a final line of 5.0 innings, six hits, two walks, two runs and nine strikeouts.
After Navy's offense placed a runner on the base paths for the sixth straight inning via a Liam Lowery full-count walk, Jack Ferguson (Fr., Atlanta, Ga.) came out of the bullpen to relieve Song in the bottom of the sixth and set the Bulldogs down in order with three fly outs.
Michael Coritz (So., Clifton, Va.) continued Navy's run of men on base with a leadoff walk in the top of the seventh, though he was quickly deleted with a double play.
Over Gardner-Webb's last two offensive at bats, the Bulldogs drove in a total of 10 runs with four in the seventh and six in the eighth to round out the game's scoring at a 12-0 margin.
Freshmen Charlie Connolly (Wayne, Pa.) and Trey Braithwaite (Winchester, Va.) made their collegiate debuts out of the bullpen as Connolly closed out the seventh with back-to-back strikeouts, while Braithwaite ended the eighth with a groundout.
For the game, Gardner-Webb outhit Navy, 17-6. Six different Mids recorded hits and seven of the nine starters reached base.
"At the end of the day, we have to learn from this and continue to get better," said Kostacopoulos. "This was our first game of the year versus outside competition so these things happen.
"I thought we had legitimate chances over the first four innings and we didn't get anything through. That was kind of the tipping point. If we get to 2-2 maybe we use some different guys out of the bullpen, but at the same time we have to be able to find out who can play. That's a process that we're going to be going through for the first 15, 20 games of the season. We have a lot of new guys."
Navy will continue action at the Wake Forest round-robin tournament on Saturday with a game versus the host Demon Deacons. First pitch is scheduled for 12 noon.