Feb. 22, 2008
MILLINGTON, Tenn. - Navy right-handed pitcher Oliver Drake (So./Gardner, Mass.) fired six innings of four-hit baseball to lead the Midshipmen to a season-opening 6-5 victory over Air Force at the Service Academy Spring Classic in Millington, Tenn., on Friday.
Navy has won each of its last four season openers and five-straight ballgames against service academy foe Air Force, spanning back to the 2005 season.
"We were really just fair overall today," stated Navy head coach Paul Kostacopoulos, who improved to 6-1 in his first-three seasons with Navy at the Service Academy Spring Classic. "We had opportunities to extend leads but were never able to do so, but at least came away with the win. We had good starting pitching and good relief work from our closer, but we did a lot of average things. A lot of situations came up today, which is good early on and we have things to work on."
Drake struck out five and walked three while yielding three runs over his six-plus innings of work to earn the victory on Friday. The sophomore right-hander recorded his fifth-career quality start and recorded 10-consecutive outs between the first and fourth innings.
"Oliver had trouble getting ahead, but threw well and really battled," said Kostacopoulos. "He just ran out of gas in the seventh inning, but really got us where we to be - six inning of positive work."
Navy opened up a 6-0 lead for Drake after six innings before Air Force closed it to a one-run affair in the seventh. However, Navy relievers Kyle Millerd (So./La Quinta, Calif.) and JD Melton (So./Myrtle Beach, S.C.) would come up big in clutch situations to preserve the Midshipmen advantage.
After Air Force's K.J. Randhawa hit a two-run double to pull the Falcons within one at 6-5 with one out in the seventh, Millerd was summoned from the bullpen and proceeded to strike out the next two batters to quell the threat. One inning later, Millerd allowed a one-out single and walk before Melton came in for the Mids. Melton, Navy's closer, induced back-to-back groundouts to get out of the jam and went on to retire the Falcons 1-2-3 in the ninth to earn his 10th career save, just one shy of tying the program record.
"JD really pitched and took command of the game," Kostacopoulos said. "He was able to work ahead and get some big outs for us. Kyle also did a decent job for us."
At the plate, Navy was led by Michael Speciale's (So./Pearland, Texas) 3-for-4 performance with a double, two runs scored, one RBI and a stolen base. The three base-knocks matched Speciale's career high.
"Michael was a huge lift for us, offensively," Kostacopoulos stated. "He did a solid job at the plate and gave us what we have needed."
In his first-collegiate game, leadoff hitter Jonathan Wright (Fr./Arden, N.C.) went 2-for-5 with a double and two RBIs. Team captain Thomas Hamilton (Sr./Houston, Texas) knocked in a pair of runs, while catcher Steven Soares (So./Coral Springs, Fla.) scored twice and centerfielder Renaldo Hollins (Sr./Virginia Beach, Va.) reached base safely three times, stole a base and touched home once. Soares also gunned down two base runners and did a solid job of blocking balls throughout the contest.
Navy struck first in the bottom of the third when Hamilton delivered a two-out, two-run single down the right-field line to plate Nick Driscoll (Fr./Riverview, Fla.) and Hollins. One inning later, the Midshipmen again came through with two outs to score twice. Steven Soares (So./Coral Springs, Fla.) touched home on a wild pitch before Wright knocked in Speciale with a double down the line in right field.
Navy extended its cushion in the sixth inning and chased Air Force starter Jake Petro. Speciale smacked a RBI-double down the left field line before scoring on a Wright single up the middle to make the score 6-0.
The Midshipmen will aim for their second sweep of Air Force in as many seasons tomorrow, when the two teams meet again at USA Stadium tomorrow, starting at 11 a.m. EST (10 a.m. CST). Navy right-hander Mark McCoy (Sr./Parkland, Fla.) and Air Force right-hander David Miller are expected to start for both squads.