Feb. 22, 2013
KINSTON, N.C. -
Navy starting pitcher Ben Nelson struck out eight and didn't issue a walk as his complete-game effort helped lead Navy past Air Force, 3-1, in the opening game of the Freedom Classic at Grainger Stadium in Kinston, N.C. on Friday afternoon. With the game tied at one in the top of the ninth, Greg Dupell drew a full-count walk to break the deadlock and Kash Manzelli followed with an RBI single to make it 3-1. The Mids are now 3-2 while Air Force is 0-5.
"I think Ben's line says it all - eight strikeouts, no walks. He was able to control the leadoff hitter for the most part and to throw 115 pitches in a complete game is pretty impressive," said Navy head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. "He did it when we needed it, too. We obviously had a rough one on Wednesday and we needed someone to go out and provide some leadership and he did that."
Both teams had just six hits as Nelson and his Air Force counterpart, Cameron White, kept hitters off balance all day.
Nelson retired the first nine hitters of the game. After yielding a run and three hits in the fourth inning, he allowed just three singles the rest of the way. In the ninth, Air Force's Alex Bast led off with a base hit, but Nelson then induced consecutive fly outs and got pinch hitter Spencer Draws swinging at strike three to end the game.
"I felt great before the game and was throwing strikes in the bullpen," said Nelson. "I just tried to throw strikes out there and our defense really picked me up today, too."
Jonathan Huggins registered the first hit of the game in the top of the third inning with a single to right center field. David Wiedeman followed with a base hit of his own to give Navy runners on first and second with one out. Brandon Beans' double down the left field line scored Huggins and gave Navy a 1-0 lead.
The Falcons tied the game at one in the bottom of the fourth inning with an RBI single by Bast.
After giving up the run in the third inning, White allowed just one hit until a leadoff single by Wiedeman in the top of the ninth. An error gave Navy its second base runner and then an intentional walk to Dave Milanes loaded the bases. The walk to Dupell brought in the winning run and after Manzelli's RBI single through the left side made it 3-1, Bo Wilson came on in relief of White.
"We took advantage of getting a couple base runners and found a way to scratch across some runs," said Kostacopoulos. "The third run was big because it took the sacrifice away in the bottom of the ninth."
For Nelson, now 2-0 on the season, it was the 11th complete game of his career. The nine innings marked the second-longest outing of his career. White finished with seven strikeouts as he is now 0-2 on the year.
Poor weather conditions altered the starting time of Friday's game and the rest of the series schedule has also been modified. The teams will now play a single game on Saturday at 5 p.m. and are tentatively scheduled to play a doubleheader beginning at 10 a.m. Sunday. Check NavySports.com for any updates.