March 3, 2012
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -
The Navy baseball team got a game-ending fielder's choice from Dylan Wheeler in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Mids defeated Central Connecticut State, 4-3, on Saturday afternoon at Max Bishop Stadium. Navy improved to 5-3 with the win, while the Blue Devils dropped to 0-3.
"It was a really exciting baseball game," said Navy head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. "We were one out away in the top of the ninth, but they kept the game alive and then we were able to fight back in the bottom of the inning."
With Navy leading, 3-2, in the top of the ninth inning with one out and a runner on first base, reliever Anthony Parenti came into the game looking to get the final two outs. Parenti struck out the first batter he faced, Tyler McIntyre, but Danny Hickey followed with an RBI single to right field in the next at-bat, which tied the game.
Joel Rinehart struck out the next batter, Connor Hoagland, to send the game to the bottom of the ninth tied at three.
After Chris Cannon struck out to start the bottom of the frame, Kash Manzelli drew a full-count walk and Josh Moore followed with a single to give Navy runners on the corners.
The Blue Devils brought in Josh Ingram to face the next batter, Wheeler, who drove the second pitch he saw toward shortstop Anthony Turgeon. Turgeon attempted to start a double play as he flipped to second baseman J.P Sportman for the force out. Sportman then threw to first, but Wheeler beat the throw and pinch runner Nikolai Simonson crossed home plate for the winning run.
The game took a pivotal turn in the fifth inning when the Blue Devils loaded the bases with no outs, but wound up settling for just one run.
Leading 1-0, it looked like the Blue Devils would add to their lead as their first three hitters all reached base safely. The next batter, Nick Palmisano, reached on a fielder's choice and Mike Washburn scored to make it a 2-0 game.
But Navy starting pitcher Ben Nelson refused to let the Blue Devils add to their lead as he retired the next three hitters in order, leaving the bases packed to end the inning.
"It looked like we were in trouble there, but we got out of it," said Kostacopoulos. "Ben did a tremendous job of getting out of that inning. That was just being competitive."
After avoiding what could have been a much larger deficit, the Mids responded in the bottom of the fifth with a run of the their own to make the score 2-1. A single by David Wiedeman and a throwing error on the play allowed Greg Bryant to score from second base for the Mids' first run.
"For us to get a run back in the bottom of that inning was big and we were able to stay in the game," said Kostacopoulos.
In a season-long, seven-inning outing, Nelson struck out seven batters and walked just one as he got the no-decision. Rinehart, who took over for Anthony Parenti, earned the win and improved to 1-1.
CCSU starter Jack Greenhouse pitched five and one-thirds innings, allowed three runs (two earned) off five hits and also struck out seven batters.
Casey Brown, who took over for Greenhouse in the sixth inning, was tagged with the loss.
Saturday marked Navy's second straight come-from-behind victory after rallying to defeat Air Force last Sunday.
"We want to play better baseball, obviously we need to swing the bats better," said Kostacopoulos. "But, if you can grab a couple wins like this you get a little confidence that you can come back in games. Even though we have to get a lot better, we're still gaining something out of fighting to win some ballgames."
Navy will have two opportunities to improve on its 5-3 record tomorrow when it hosts the Blue Devils at 10:30 a.m. and then the Towson Tigers at 2 p.m.
Live video via Navy All-Access at NavySports.com will be available for tomorrow's game against Towson. The game can also be heard on WNAV (99.9 FM/1430 AM) in Annapolis.