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Navy Rallies to Defeat Air Force in 11 Innings, 10-9

Pinch-hitter Jonathan Wright delivered the go-ahead single in the 11th inning

Pinch-hitter Jonathan Wright delivered the go-ahead single in the 11th inning

Feb. 28, 2010

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SAVANNAH, Ga. - Navy pinch-hitter Jonathan Wright (Jr./Arden, N.C.) ripped a two-out, two-run single to center in the 11th inning that proved to the difference in a 10-9, 11-inning baseball victory over Air Force on Sunday afternoon at historic Grayson Stadium.

The Midshipmen improved to 6-1 on the year with three-game series-clinching win. The Falcons saw their record fall to 1-6.

Trailing 8-5 going into the eighth, pinch-hitter Greg Dupell (Fr./Tampa, Fla.) and Nick Driscoll (Jr./Riverview, Fla.) delivered back-to-back one-out singles. After a groundout moved both runners into scoring position, Matthew Curley (Sr./Boston, Mass.) smacked a two-run single to left-center to pull within one.

Still down a run in the ninth, Kendall Bolt (Sr./Stockton, Calif.) legged out a triple down the left-field line that rattled around in the Air Force bullpen. Pinch-hitter Andrew Hahn (So./Ellicott City, Md.) stepped to the plate and laced the game-tying single through the right side.

With the score tied at eight in the 11th, Michael Speciale (Sr./Pearland, Texas) got things started with a one-out single up the middle. After a flyout, Bolt singled through the left side and Speciale hustled around to beat the throw to third, during which Bolt advanced to second. Wright was then called off the bench and produced the clutch base knock that put the Mids on top, 10-8.

"It's a great feeling for the team when those guys come off the bench and produce in the clutch," stated Navy head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. "Down 8-5 with five outs to go, Greg got the eighth inning going for us. Andrew delivered the game-tying hit and Jonathan came off the bench to put us ahead with two outs."

Air Force would make things interesting in the bottom half of the inning with an unearned run to pull within one. With the tying run on first, Navy reliever Joel Rinehart (Fr./Kingwood, Texas) induced a game-ending fielder's choice to short.

"This was an exciting baseball game with both teams having many opportunities to score," said Kostacopoulos. "We just kept battling and battling and were able to come back.

"This was a great win because we were able to come back, but we cannot afford to play like this. It was a tremendous effort and we won because we battled hard, not because we played well. We have a lot of things to work on. We can't play like this over a 50-game schedule and expect to win many of them."

Navy's freshmen relievers did not allow an earned run over the final-4.2 innings of the game to complete the comeback. Ben Nelson (Fr./Winter Springs, Fla.) struck out two and walked none over 1.2 innings, followed by two hitless, scoreless innings by Tyler Mapes (Fr./Plano, Texas) in his collegiate debut to earn the win and Rinehart's 11th inning of one-hit relief to earn the save.

"Ben, Joel and Tyler all showed me something today," said Kostacopoulos. "Ben and Joel both weren't sharp on Friday, but were able to get a day of rest, come back and performed in the clutch. Tyler's first time out came in an 8-8 tie in the ninth and pitched well in the pressure. I'm very happy with all-three performances."

Navy jumped out to a quick, 5-0 lead after two innings. Bolt drew a bases loaded walk in the first, followed by a Jeff Bland (Jr./Basking Ridge, N.J.) two-run single that put the Mids ahead 3-0. One inning later, Alex Azor (So./Miami, Fla.) and Bolt delivered RBI singles.

Air Force chipped away at the Navy lead, scoring one in the third, fifth and sixth innings. In the seventh, the Falcons capitalized on three of Navy's five errors on the day to plate five runs and take an 8-5 lead.

Navy starter Zach Sipe (So./Huffman, Texas) fired six innings of five-hit, three-run baseball with three walks and four strikeouts. The right-hander struggled with his command at times during his 103-pitch afternoon, but was able to turn the game over to the bullpen with a 5-3 lead.

"Zach competed really well," said Kostacopoulos. "There was some pretty good zip on his fastball that helped him through. The best part of his performance was that he competed hard and left the game with a lead after six innings."

Curley led Navy's 18-hit attack, as he reached base safely in all six of his plate appearances on Sunday. The Navy second baseman went 4-for-4 with a double, a walk, a hit by pitch, two runs scored and two RBIs.

"Matthew was our key offensive player today," stated Kostacopoulos. "To reach base safely in all six of his plate appearances, that's a tremendous job. His hits came at big times. He's been like that for us so far this season and is doing a great job in the No. 2 spot in our lineup."

Bolt went 3-for-5 with a triple, a walk, two runs scored and two RBIs, while Azor finished 3-for-6 at the plate with a RBI and a run scored. Speciale also recorded a multi-hit performance for the Mids, as he went 2-for-6 with a run scored.

The Midshipmen will return to action this Thursday with a home game against Coppin State at 2 p.m. Admission is free for all Navy home games at Terwilliger Brothers Field at Max Bishop Stadium and live stats will be available via GameTracker on www.NavySports.com(.)

DIAMOND NOTES:
- Navy has defeated Air Force in eight of the last-10 meetings, dating back to the 2005 season ... the Midshipmen are now 12-13 all-time against the Falcons.
- Sunday's 11-inning affair was Navy's first of the 2010 season and its first since an eight-inning, 2-1 win over Lafayette on March 29, 2009 ... it was also the longest game played between Navy and Air Force in series history and only the second time that the two teams played an extra-inning game ... the last time Navy and Air Force needed extra frames was in 1992, when the Falcons nipped the Mids in nine innings, 6-5.
- Navy's 6-1 start to the year match's head coach Paul Kostacopoulos's best start since taking over the reigns in 2006 ... his 2007 Mids also started the season with a 6-1 mark over their first-seven games en route to a program-record 35 wins.
- With Sunday's win, Kostacopoulos has led Navy to an impressive 26-9-2 (.730) record in February contests since taking over the reigns in 2006 ... prior to Kostacopoulos's arrival, the Midshipmen were 29-63-1 (.317) all-time in games played during the month of February.
- Matthew Curley's four hits on Sunday were a career high ... he also became the first Navy player since Kendall Bolt against Army last season to reach base safely in all-six of his plate appearances in a game.
- Navy's pinch hitters on Sunday went 3-for-5, with all three of those base knocks either driving in a run or eventually accounting for a run in the inning ... this season, Navy's pinch hitters are batting .444 (8-for-18).
- Zach Sipe delivered his second quality start in as many appearances this spring ... last year, the Navy right-hander had only one to his credit - a seven-inning outing against Lafayette on March 29.
- Steven Soares was hit twice in Sunday's win, which ties a program record for most in a game, which has been done on 47 prior occasions in school history ... as a team, the Midshipmen have been plunked 16 times this season, an average of 2.29 hit by pitches per game.
- Leadoff hitter Mike Guadagnini extended his hitting streak to 22 games, which dates back to last season, with his single in the first ... over this span, he's batting .392 (40-for-102) with 29 runs scored.
- Navy's five errors on Sunday were a season high and the most committed by the Mids since they made six defensive miscues in a 10-4 loss to Lafayette on April 17, 2005.

 

 

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