Navy and NJIT Close Series with Sunday Doubleheader Split
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Navy baseball team wrapped up its six-game week with a home doubleheader versus NJIT. After splitting Saturday’s twinbill, the two teams locked horns again on Sunday and saw the Highlanders (2-5) take game one, 4-1 before the Mids (8-4) responded with a 7-1 victory in the second contest at Terwilliger Brothers Field at Max Bishop Stadium.
In a competitive series throughout all four games this weekend, big, multi-run innings in both contests on Sunday played a role in the final score. With game one tied at 1-1 through five innings, three unearned runs in the top of the sixth spotted the Highlanders a 4-1 margin that they would eventually take final. In the second game, a two-spot by the Mids in the bottom of the second gave the hosts a slight bit of breathing room before the team added four insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth on its way to the six-run victory.
On Sunday, Navy’s pitching staff combined to allow just two earned runs over 16.0 innings. The game two pitching trio of Jack Ferguson (Fr., Atlanta, Ga.), Colin Brady (Sr., Seneca, S.C.) and Jared Leins (Fr., Raleigh, N.C.) highlighted the team’s effort for the doubleheader as they combined to give up just one run over nine innings, while striking out eight and allowing eight hits. Brady was credited with the victory for going 3.0 innings with three hits, one run and three strikeouts. Leins went the final 4.0 innings and held NJIT to three total hits, while striking out five.
“Colin’s role in game two was key because we were working up hill all day and they had a chance to break through in that third inning, but he shut them down and that changed the entire complexion of the game,” remarked head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. “He did a really good job in some difficult situations. The third and fourth innings were critical junctures. Jared did a great job in the final four innings and allowed our offense to get some separation.”
Offensively, Liam Lowery (Jr., Williamsburg, Va.), Jacob Williamson (So., Sims, N.C.) and Christian Hodge (Jr., Winder, Ga.) played pivotal roles in Navy’s doubleheader on Sunday. As the Mids’ starting DH, Lowery went 3-for-6 with a double and a team-high three RBIs. Both Williamson and Hodge had multiple hits and RBIs over the course of the twinbill as the sophomore 3B went a combined 3-for-7 with a double and two RBIs, while the junior 1B went 2-for-6 with a double and two RBIs.
“When you’re playing in 25 mph winds like today those conditions didn’t lead to a lot of offense,” said Kostacopoulos. “Runs were at a premium all day in both games. They [NJIT] got the big hit in the first game to open up the gates a bit and very similarly we got the big hit the game two. Jake had a couple of big hits. Liam came through in some very important at bats and accounted for three runs in that second game. Hits were hard to come by this weekend.”
Game One: NJIT 4 – Navy 1
The scoring in game one on Sunday was slow developing as both teams were held off the scoreboard in the first. Navy starting pitcher Andrew Sauer (Jr., Johns Creek, Ga.) put down NJIT in order in the top of the first. It wasn’t until the bottom of the second when the Mids manufactured their first run. Following a leadoff double by Evan Lowery (So., Williamsburg, Va.), the Mids’ next batter Hodge stroked a single into center field to send Lowery home.
The game stayed at that 1-0 score until the top of the fourth when NJIT tied three singles together to drive in its first run of the game.
Navy continued keeping the pressure on NJIT with runners on base in each of its first six innings at bat, but in each instance those runners were unable to come around and score. Doubles by Liam and Evan Lowery in the fourth and sixth innings, respectively highlighted the Mids’ effort during that span.
The visitors from Newark, N.J. cracked the 1-1 tie in the top of the sixth as they Highlanders sent eight batters to the plate and came away with three unearned runs following a Midshipmen fielding error.
A three-up, three-down bottom of the seventh inning versus Navy closed out NJIT’s 4-1 victory.
For the game, NJIT outhit Navy, 9-5. Evan Lowery led the Mids with two hits.
Sauer was saddled with the loss as he went 6.0 innings with nine hits, three walks and four runs allowed (one earned), while striking out four.
Game Two: Navy 7 – NJIT 1
The second game on Sunday opened with back-to-back scoreless frames by both starters, Ferguson for Navy and Jared Kacso for NJIT. The Highlanders threatened for the contest’s first run in the third inning as they had runners on second and third with no outs. That dire situation was immediately extinguished by Brady, who was summoned in from the bullpen. The senior struck out the first two batters he faced and forced the third into a harmless fly out to left field.
Navy’s offense paid back Brady’s labor with two runs in the bottom of that same third inning. Sparked by an Alex Smith (So., Stafford, Va.) leadoff single and a Zach Biggers (So., Walhalla, S.C.) hit by pitch, Williamson came through with a two-out two-run double to the right-center field gap.
Down 2-0, NJIT responded in the top of the fourth with three hits and a solo run, though Brady minimized the damage with a strikeout and back-to-back ground outs to three consecutive Highlander batters.
After a three-up, three-down fifth inning, Brady’s day was done and Leins came out of the bullpen to start the sixth. The freshman RHP mowed down the Highlanders on 11 pitches in a spotless frame.
With the score tight at 2-1, Navy added some breathing space to its lead in the bottom of the sixth. Biggers led off the inning with a double to left field. After a Williamson single, Liam Lowery offered a clutch two-out single to left field to bring Biggers home.
Now up 3-1, Leins, the reigning Patriot League Rookie of the Week, held NJIT at bay for the final three innings of the game. Leins struck out at least one Highlander in each of the last three frames.
Navy tallied four insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth as the team sent 10 batters to the plate. Hodge started the RBI movement with a double down the right field line before Liam Lowery followed him with a two-RBI single up the middle. The Mids’ fourth run came in when Jonah Llanusa (So., Choctaw, Okla.) scored from second on a dropped fly ball by the Highlanders’ centerfielder.
The 7-1 victory saw the Mids outhit the Highlanders, 9-8. Williamson (3) and Liam Lowery (2) each had multiple hits for Navy.
Brady earned the victory for his strong middle relief work and Leins was credited with his first collegiate save.
Navy will be back in action on Wednesday afternoon with a home tilt versus Maryland Eastern Shore. First pitch between the Mids and Hawks is set for 2 p.m.