March 9, 2014
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The Navy baseball team (5-7) went toe-to-toe with the defending CAA champions Towson (9-3) on Sunday, but came up short as the visiting Tigers held on for a 3-2 victory. The Mids registered double-digit hits for the second consecutive game, but were only able to push across two runs versus the Tigers at Max Bishop Stadium in the final game of a three-game round-robin series with Penn and Monmouth.
Offensively, senior LF Brandon Beans (Hartsville, S.C.) led the team with a 3-for-5 showing at the plate. He was backed up by a pair of teammates with two hits each, Kash Manzelli (Sr., Dunwoody, Ga.) and Jack Keller (Jr., Ballston Spa, N.Y.).
On the mound, sophomore Andrew Bartek (Jefferson, Ga.) highlighted a strong showing by the Navy bullpen, who as a group tossed five scoreless innings in relief of starter Luke Gillingham (So., Coronado, Calif.). Individually, Bartek hurled three innings and faced 10 batters with only one Tiger reaching on a walk.
"We held them to three runs, which was good enough to win; we had 10 hits, which was good enough to win, but we didn't play the game the way it needs to be played fundamentally," said Navy head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. "We had a few opportunities to move runners, we left a lot of men on base and we just didn't play the game well enough to get rewarded with a win. We missed a lot of opportunities today and just didn't execute well. "
The Tigers jumped on the Mids early in the top of the first inning as their leadoff hitter Zach Fisher stroked a single to left field before moving base-to-base via a sacrifice bunt and a single. He eventually scored on a Kurt Wertz ground ball to Travis Blue (Fr., Orange, Calif.) at short.
Navy looked to fight back from its 1-0 deficit in the bottom of the same frame as Manzelli and Beans went back-to-back with two-out singles. The Mids would come up empty as the Tigers retired Leland Saile
(Fr., Land O' Lakes, Fla.) to end the danger.
Unfortunately for Navy this situation would occur numerous times throughout the ball game as the Mids had runners on base in all nine of their innings on Sunday and were only successful scoring twice.
Towson withstood the constant threats by Navy and eventually pushed across two runs on three straight hits in the fourth inning to extend its lead to 3-0.
The Mids got on the board in the fifth inning when Blue led off with a hit by pitch. After stealing second base and advancing on a deep fly out by Beans, the freshman came in to score on an infield single by Saile, who beat out a bang-bang play at first. With two outs, Saile hit a hard grounder towards the second base hole that caused Towson's Hunter Bennett to range more than halfway to first to snag the ball and then attempt to get throw on time to first.
Drew Hayes (So., Collegeville, Pa.) began Navy's next scoring push in the sixth with a leadoff single to centerfield. Keller followed up Hayes with a single of his own to put two runners on. Brad Borosak (Jr., Jupiter, Fla.) advanced both Hayes and Keller with a sacrifice bunt to set the table for Robert Currie's (So., Atlanta, Ga.) sacrifice fly to centerfield to give the Midshipmen their second run of the game.
Bartek and his bullpen mates thrived in Sunday's close ball game and held Towson at bay with just its three early runs. After pitching scoreless fifth, sixth and seventh inning frames and striking out four, Bartek gave way to freshman Kevin McKelvey (Fr., West Covina, Calif.), who made his collegiate debut with a three-up, three-down showing versus the 4-5-6 hitters of a talented Tiger lineup. Colby Sciarrilla (Fr., Vidor, Texas) and Charlie LaMar (Jr., Clearwater, Fla.) set the stage for one last push by Navy's offense with a combined scoreless ninth inning.
Facing off with Towson LHP Kyle Paul, the Mids were only able to muster a Manzelli single in the bottom of the ninth as they fell by a final of 3-2.
For the game, Navy outhit Towson as a team, 10-6.
Greg Baruka (1-1) got the win for Towson in relief of Lee Lawler, who started and went four. Luke Gillingham (0-3) took the loss for Navy with a final line of 4.0 innings pitched, one strikeout and three runs allowed on six hits. Paul collected his second save of the season with four scoreless innings following Baruka's stint.
"Bartek was really good, that was probably his best outing of the year," said Kostacopoulos. "We pieced it together a little bit after him. Kevin McKelvey came out as a freshman and had a good inning. As a group, the relievers did their job."
"When your entire staff gives up three runs and you have that many opportunities on offense, today was winnable ball game."
For the weekend, Navy collected 28 hits versus Penn, Monmouth and Towson for a culmulative .286 batting average. Beans and Manzelli led the Mids with five hits each during the three-game round-robin series. The senior duo improved their season averages by over 60 points as Beans elevated himself up to .186 and Manzelli up to .261.
Kostacopoulos remarked that after this weekend's play "Brandon is starting to see the ball better. Even his outs are louder. He's starting to break out some and we hope that continues because he's a good player and we need him. It's nice to see he's on the path to getting on track."
Navy's pitching staff was also strong during the three-game set of games as eight pitchers combined for a 1.67 ERA and 23 strikeouts with seven runs (five earned) allowed on 17 hits over 27 innings.
The Mids will be back in action on Monday, March 10 with a 1 p.m. home tilt versus Washington College. Navy will send George Coughlin (0-1, 2.84 ERA) to the mound versus the Shoremen in his first collegiate start.