Feb. 17, 2012
Paul Kostacopouls Postgame Comments
GREENSBORO, N.C. - The combination of starting pitcher Ben Nelson and reliever Joel Rinehart proved to be a recipe for success last season and the Navy baseball team put it to good use on Friday as the duo combined for 10 strikeouts in a season-opening win. The pitching of Nelson and Rinehart and a timely, two-out, two-RBI single by David Wiedeman in the top of the seventh inning helped Navy defeat North Carolina A&T, 3-1, in the first of a three-game set on Friday at War Memorial Stadium in Greensboro, N.C.
"Ben really set the tone for the win today - his line was incredible," said Navy head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. "I think we were a little antsy at the plate with just four hits, but Dave Wiedeman got the big hit and sometimes it's not how many you get - it's the big ones."
Nelson finished with six strikeouts and no walks in six and two-thirds innings as the junior picked up the 12th win of his career.
Leading 1-0 in the top of the seventh inning, Navy got help from a pair of Aggie infield errors with two outs that allowed Kash Manzelli and Andrew Hahn to reach base. With Manzelli on third base and Hahn on second, Joe Mackey replaced starting pitcher Esterlin Paulino on the mound for the Aggies. Wiedeman then jumped on Mackey early in the at-bat, belting his offering along the ground into center field and easily scoring both runners.
After allowing three hits through three and two-thirds innings, Nelson retired nine Aggie batters in a row before giving way to Johnny Schoberl with two outs in the seventh.
With one out in the eighth inning, Joel Rinehart replaced Schoberl and struck out four the six batters he faced to earn his 10th-career save.
"We asked Joel to get five outs, which is a tough save," said Kostacopoulos. "He had four strikeouts and that really takes the pressure off the defense."
Alex Azor, who went 2-for-4, led off the top of the sixth inning for Navy with a triple, and two batters later Dave Milanes brought him in with a sacrifice fly for the first run of the game.
North Carolina A&T scored its only run of the day when a dropped third strike allowed Mark Nales, who was running on the play, to score from second base.
The two teams are scheduled to play game two of the three-game series tomorrow at 1 p.m.
With 10-career saves, Joel Rinehart is now one save from moving into a tie with Ryan Hefner for second place on Navy's all-time saves list.
Now with 162-career hits, Alex Azor moved into a tie with Marcus Lee for 14th place on Navy's all-time hits list.
Dating back to last season, Ben Nelson has struck out a total of 27 batters in his last four starts...He has recorded at least six strikeouts in nine of his 24-career starts.
Navy has now won six of its last eight season openers and is 67-48-2 all-time on Opening Day.