Song’s 16 Strikeouts and Explosive Offense Power Mids to 16-1 Win
KINSTON, N.C. – The 2018 Freedom Classic opened on Friday with fireworks on the field between Navy and Air Force before closing with a fireworks display for the 1,400 fans in attendance at Historic Grainger Stadium. The Mids used a dominant 16-strikeout record-setting start from junior RHP Noah Song and offensive production from throughout their batting order to the tune of 21 hits and 16 runs on their way to a 16-1 victory.
On his way to the fifth-most strikeouts in a single game by a Navy pitcher in program history, Song (Claremont, Calif.) opened the contest with 12 straight outs via strikeouts over the first four innings. In his final two frames, the right-hander added four more punch outs. When he exited the game after 97 pitches, Song had retired 16 of the 22 batters he faced via strikeout. To punctuate Song’s individual performance Navy’s bullpen tallied four more strikeouts over the final three innings to break the school record for most strikeouts in a game.
Offensively, the Mids had 17 players see game action and 14 either reach base safely or drive in a run. Leading Navy’s offense on Friday night was the sophomore duo of Jacob Williamson (Sims, N.C.) and Evan Lowery (Williamsburg, Va.), who each recorded multiple RBIs and four hits a piece. Seniors Stephen Born (Strafford, Pa.) and Logan Knowles (Port Orchard, Wash.) also drove in multiple runs off of Air Force pitching.
“Noah’s performance was really unique in the sense that of his 18 outs, 16 were strikeouts. That pretty much says it all,” exclaimed head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. “Alongside Noah’s tremendous start we had a very good offensive game. Jake had four hits, Evan had four hits; we got contributions from throughout our lineup. Guys were getting on base and then were getting driven in. We had a lot of good things going on offense. It was an all-around really solid performance.”
Song opened the game in dominant fashion as he struck out each of the first six batters that he saw over just 26 pitches.
With their pitcher cruising, Navy’s offense gave Song some reinforcement in the bottom of the second with four runs. After a single by Williamson and a double by Evan Lowery put two runners in scoring position, Liam Lowery (Jr., Williamsburg, Va.) singled to left field for the first run of the game. A safety squeeze by Alex Smith (So., Stafford, Va.) made it 2-0 before Knowles broke the inning open with a two-RBI triple to the right-center field gap.
Song’s dominance continued in the third and fourth innings as six more Falcons went down on strikeouts. After he got Daniel Jones looking at strike three to start the top of the third, the next five punch outs came on swinging third strikes.
Navy extended its lead in the bottom of the fourth as the team once again sent eight men to the plate. A single by Michael Coritz (So., Clifton, Va.) and walk to Knowles set the scene for back-to-back RBI hits by Born and Williamson. Born drove in Coritz on a single to center field before Williamson roped a double to left field to score two.
Now up 7-0, Song started wrapping up his record-setting performance with two strikeouts in each of the fifth and sixth innings.
Before he was officially removed from the game, Song’s teammates on offense tacked on another run in the bottom of the sixth as Evan Lowery drove in Williamson on a single to right field.
With the score 8-0 and his pitch count at 97, Song’s day was done with a final line of 6.0 innings, two hits, no runs, two walks and 16 strikeouts. He became just the seventh pitcher in Navy program history to ever reach the 16-strikeout milestone and ended up tied with Luke Gillingham (2/13/15), Dennis Losh (4/3/69) and Chuck Davis (5/8/59) for fifth place all-time. Prior to Friday, Song’s career-high was 13 strikeouts versus Air Force at the 2017 Freedom Classic, last Feb. 24.
Colin Brady (Sr., Seneca, S.C.) took the proverbial pitching baton from Song out of the bullpen and retired the first batter he faced with a strikeout swinging in the top of the seventh. The Falcons would scratch out their only run of the game in that frame to make the score 8-1.
Over Navy’s final two offensive innings at bat, the Mids tallied four runs in the seventh and four more in the eighth. Born and Williamson each drove in two runs in the seventh. In the following inning, Coritz looped an RBI double down the right field line in the eighth for an RBI before Matthew Wilcox (Jr., Los Gatos, Calif.) came off the bench and singled to right field to score a run. Another pinch hitter, Gabe Schilke (So., Fredericksburg, Va.) netted Navy its 15th run of the game. Evan Lowery capped his 4-for-5 day with an RBI single to left field to plate Jonah Llanusa (So., Choctaw, Okla.).
Of note in Navy’s eighth inning, Aaron Ahn (Fr., Marlboro, N.J.) made his collegiate debut and doubled to right field; Llanusa singled to right field and Stephen Thompson (Fr., Rock Hill, S.C.) singled through the right side of the infield. All three hits were the first of the newcomers’ respective careers.
A pair of freshmen newcomers in the Mids’ bullpen left their mark on Friday’s game as Charlie Connolly (Wayne, Pa.) and Trey Braithwaite (Winchester, Va.) closed out the Falcons with scoreless eighth and ninth innings. Their success was notable as Connolly’s one strikeout and Braithwaite’s two gave Navy a new school record for most strikeouts in a single game. The previous mark of 18 was shared by staffs in 2015, 1968 and 1960.
“A lot of our younger players got a chance to get their feet wet today,” said Kostacopoulos. “Getting them experience is a continual process. We have to choose the right situations for them, but they really took advantage of their opportunities tonight. That’s good to see because you don’t always have those opportunities. Their efforts were a big part of the final outcome.”
In the 16-1 contest, Navy outhit Air Force 21-5. Six Mids recorded multiple with Evan Lowery and Williamson tallying four each. Knowles, Zach Biggers (So., Walhalla, S.C.), Born and Coritz each had two hits. Coritz scored a career-high four runs.
Navy and Air Force will play the second game of the 2018 Freedom Classic on Saturday afternoon beginning at 2 p.m.
Navy in the Record Book
Single-Game Strikeout Record (Staff)
#1 – 20 Ks - vs. Air Force (2/23/18)
T2 – 18 Ks - at North Carolina A&T (2/13/15)
T2 – 18 Ks - vs. Seton Hall (4/6/68)
T2 – 18 Ks - vs. Baltimore (5/30/60)
T5 – 17 Ks – 3 times
Single-Game Strikeout Record (Individual)
#1 – 18 Ks - Richard Buchanan – Seton Hall (4/6/68)
T2 – 17 Ks - Dave Landwehr – Gettysburg (3/16/86)
T2 – 17 Ks – Chuck Davis – West Chester (4/7/60)
T2 – 17 Ks – Dale Mueller – Richmond (5/17/44)
T5 – 16 Ks – Noah Song – Air Force (2/23/18)
T5 – 16 Ks – Luke Gillingham – N.C. A&T (2/13/15)
T5 – 16 Ks – Dennis Losh – Syracuse (4/3/69)
T5 – 16 Ks – Chuck Davis – Columbia (5/8/59)