March 2, 2014
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Navy baseball team (3-6) dropped the rubber match of its three-game set with Cornell (2-1) on Sunday afternoon in extra innings by a score of 4-2. Solid pitching efforts from Luke Gillingham (So., Coronado, Calif.) and George Coughlin (Fr., Arvada, Colo.) and a game-tying RBI single by Travis Blue (Fr., Orange, Calif.) went for naught as the Big Red notched back-to-back extra-base hits in the 11th inning to secure the victory.
Gillingham started for Navy and went 6.1 innings with three strikeouts and allowed two runs on five hits and four walks before giving way to Coughlin, who took over in the seventh and pitched into the 11th inning. The freshman gave the Mids 3.2 innings of scoreless relief work with two strikeouts before Cornell got to him in the 11th for two runs on two hits.
“I think it’s similar to a lot of the games we’ve played this year,” said Navy head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. “We’re really struggling scoring and just don’t have a large margin for error when we get opportunities. When we miss them, they’re really game changing. We were down 2-0 early and battled back to tie it and have a couple of shots to go-ahead and we didn’t do it. That’s where we’re at right now.”
“Once again we played good, pitched pretty solid and made three or four plus plays on defense, but that’s not enough to win and we have to find out a way over the next few weeks to put a lineup together that’ll score runs.”
After the teams went scoreless in the first inning, Cornell got on the scoreboard in the top of the second when it sent eight batters to the plate. After its leadoff hitter was retired on a ground out, the Big Red worked Gillingham for two hits and three walks to manufacture two runs. Navy minimized the potential damage when 2B Brad Borosak (Jr., Jupiter, Fla.) snagged a line drive and Gillingham struck out Cornell’s Ryan Karl swinging to end the frame.
Down 2-0, the Mids fought back to plate a run in the bottom of the fourth inning when Robert Currie
(So., Atlanta, Ga.) led off with a single up the middle. After a Kash Manzelli
(Sr., Dunwoody, Ga.) single made it runners on the corners with one out, sophomore Connor Deneen
(Tustin, Calif.) lofted a sacrifice fly into left field to score Currie.
The score would stay at 2-1 until the eighth inning. Gillingham played a huge role in keeping the contest at a manageable one-run deficit for Navy as he at one point retired 13 of 14 batters between the second and seventh innings.
“I think that the fact that Luke grinded through shows a lot about his competitive nature because when you put guys on with walks and you’re pitching behind that’s difficult. That was his situation over the first two innings, but he hung in there and that’s a quality that will take him a long way because you’re not always going to have your best stuff and he did that,” said Kostacopoulos about Gillingham’s performance on Sunday.
In the eighth inning trailing by one run, the Mids rallied to tie the game as Drew Hayes (So., Collegeville, Pa.) led off by getting on base via a fielding error by Cornell’s third baseman. A sacrifice bunt and ground out advanced Hayes to third base with two outs, setting the stage for Blue’s clutch hit. The freshman shortstop, who was elevated to the three-hole in the lineup this weekend, came through with a hard single up the middle to tie the game at 2-2.
“Travis has done a nice job this season, he really believes in his abilities in the right way,” said Kostacopoulos. “He’s confident, he goes up and handles the bat well and he delivers in the clutch. He’s playing some really good baseball right now.”
With Coughlin on the mound in relief of Gillingham, Navy continued holding Cornell off of the scoreboard. The freshman retired the first seven batters he faced over the seventh, eighth and ninth innings before allowing a two-out hit by pitch. After his first blemish on the afternoon, Coughlin came back in the 10th and set Cornell down 1-2-3.
Cornell finally broke the 2-2 deadlock in the 11th inning when the Big Red notched back-to-back doubles to start the frame. After making it 3-2, a single by Tommy Wagner and a fielder’s choice by Kevin Tatum would manufacture a fourth run and the final score of 4-2.
“George did a nice job for a freshman in a tight ballgame for us today,” said Kostacopoulos. “I thought he made a lot of good pitches. He had three pitches working, his fastball, change and breaking ball. You can’t expect your guys to keep throwing up zeros and they got to him in the 11th, but that was his longest outing as a pitcher here.”
Cornell reliever Michael Byrne (1-0) earned the win with six innings of one run work, while Coughlin (0-1) was tagged with the hard-fought loss.
For the game, the Big Red outhit the Midshipmen 10-7. Overall the 2-3-4 portion of Navy’s lineup collected five of the team’s hits; Currie and Manzelli led the way with two each.
The Midshipmen are scheduled to be back in action on Wednesday, March 5 with a 2 p.m. home matchup versus Georgetown.