Navy Takes Second Game of Freedom Classic Over Air Force, 6-4
KINSTON, N.C. – The Navy baseball team won the second game of the 2018 Freedom Classic on Saturday at Grainger Stadium by a score of 6-4 over Air Force. In a game with two distinct halves, the Mids and Falcons scored a combined nine runs over the first three innings before Navy’s bullpen took over and held a two-run advantage over the final five innings.
Jacob Williamson (So., Sims, N.C.) and Evan Lowery (So., Williamsburg, Va.) sparked Navy’s offense over the first third of the game as the duo was a combined 4-for-4 with five RBIs in their first two respective at bats. Williamson drove in three runs on back-to-back doubles, while Lowery plated two on a pair of singles.
On the mound, Navy’s starting pitcher Sean Kamhoot (Sr., Gainesville, Fla.) went four-plus innings before giving way to the freshmen Jared Leins (Fr., Raleigh, N.C.) and Tommy Goodridge (Fr., San Diego, Calif.). Leins hurled four innings of scoreless three-hit relief with seven strikeouts for the victory, while Goodridge closed out the game with scoreless ninth inning.
“There were a lot of different turns in the game,” remarked head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. “Both teams really came out hitting. I thought Sean Kamhoot did a good job of hanging in there. He got roughed up a little bit early, but he extended the game as far as innings go and got us to the point where we could go to a middle reliever in Jared, who did a fantastic job. Jared’s four innings allowed us to stay on schedule and use a back-end guy like Tommy and I think that was really important today from a pitching component. We had some good at bats early in the game off their starter and then they went to the bullpen and really shut us down. On the day, we got really good pitching from our bullpen and battled through after a back-and-forth start.”
The game opened with a bang as Navy scored two runs in the top of the first inning. With two outs, Williamson and Lowery recorded consecutive RBI hits as the Mids’ third baseman shot a double down the right field line to score Zach Biggers (So., Walhalla, S.C.) before Lowery singled into left field to plate Williamson.
Air Force, the designated visitors for today’s game, immediately responded in the bottom of the first and drove in three runs on four hits and a hit by pitch. With the score 3-2 in favor of the Falcons, the combatants from the Mountain West Conference, extended their lead in the bottom of the second with a solo run.
The 4-2 margin did not last for long as Navy had a strong rebuttal in the top of the third with three runs. A leadoff double into the right field corner by Logan Knowles (Sr., Port Orchard, Wash.) got the Mids’ offense in gear before Stephen Born (Sr., Strafford, Pa.), Williamson and Lowery tallied sequential hits off of the Falcons’ starting pitcher Matt Hargreaves. Williamson drove in Knowles and Born with a double down the line past Air Force’s third baseman, while Lowery stroked a single up the middle to send Williamson home.
Re-energized with a 5-4 lead, Kamhoot settled in a bit over the third and fourth innings and posted zeroes for the Mids. The right-hander struck out the side in the third before getting two fly outs and a ground out in the fourth.
Navy tacked on an insurance in the top of the fifth to make it 6-4. Knowles was the key component of the Mids’ sixth run as he singled up the middle, advanced to second on a wild pitch, tagged up and moved to third on a deep fly out by Biggers, and scampered home on a passed ball that was charged to the Falcons’ catcher.
After Navy went up 6-4 in the top of the fifth, Kamhoot came out for another inning of work, but a leadoff hit by pitch and the accumulation of pitches over the first four innings resulted in him exiting quickly. In just his second career collegiate start, Kamhoot hurled 89 pitches over four-plus innings. The rest of his line consisted of seven hits, four runs and a career-high six strikeouts. His previous high was four strikeouts, that came twice in 2017 as a reliever.
Summoned into the game out of the bullpen with a runner on, Leins, a North Carolina native, got a quick fly out and strikeout before Navy’s catcher, Christian Hodge (Jr., Winder, Ga.) ended the bottom of the fifth with a caught stealing put out of Air Force’s Daniel Jones.
Leins and Nick Biancalana, the Falcons’ relief pitcher, matched zero-for-zero over the next three innings and quelled what to that point was some strong offensive production from both squads. After collecting one strikeout in that fifth inning, Leins set down two Air Force batters via the strikeout in each of the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Over his stretch of action on the mound, no Falcon batter advanced past second base.
With the game still 6-4 in favor of the Mids in the bottom of the ninth, Goodridge was tagged in to close out the victory for Navy. The freshman from San Diego gave up a leadoff infield single, but his defense thwarted that situation with a 6-4-3 double play on the next pitch. Goodridge and his infield defense completed the win with another ground ball put out of pinch-hitter Cole Blatchford
Leins was credited with the victory for his four innings of scoreless, three-hit relief. The win is the first of his young collegiate career. Likewise, Goodridge’s scoreless bottom of the ninth outing gave the right-hander his first collegiate save.
For the game, Navy was outhit by Air Force, 13-8. Williamson, Lowery and Knowles all had two hits for the Mids.
“Jake had another really good day for us at the plate,” said Kostacopoulos. “Evan too. They [Air Force] took away two potential extra-base hits on Evan with really good plays by their center fielder and left fielder. They [Williamson and Lowery] continued to swing a good bat today. As a team, we didn’t quite do enough to secure that really comfortable winning feeling. We need to keep working on things like that.”
The two teams will conclude the 2018 Freedom Classic on Sunday with game three of the series slated for a 12:30 p.m. first start.