March 14, 2012
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -
A two-out, three-RBI triple by Greg Dupell in the bottom of the seventh inning wound up being the winning hit in a 9-6 Navy victory over Eastern Illinois on Wednesday in Winter Haven, Fla. Joel Rinehart pitched the final three and two-thirds innings and retired the last seven batters of the game to pick up his third win of the season.
Wednesday's game featured a total of six lead changes, but with the game tied at six and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, it was Dupell's big hit that made the difference. After Chance Jones drew a walk to pack the bases, Dupell stepped to the plate and drilled the first pitch he saw from reliever Keith Koser to right-center field to bring in all three runners and give Navy a 9-6 lead.
All nine hitters in Navy's lineup recorded a hit in the game as the Mids won their third straight to improve to 8-7.
"We had some balance throughout the lineup today and we did a good job of getting on base and keeping the pressure on them," said Navy head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. "Even though we left 12 guys on base, we were still putting pressure on them. With everyone in the lineup getting a hit, it means you're getting good things from a lot of people."
Rinehart, who took over in the top of the sixth, yielded one run before slowing down the Panther offense. He gave up two hits in the seventh, but got an inning-ending strikeout and then retired the final six batters in order.
"We were struggling in the fifth and sixth innings and Joel was able to come in and get our feet back on the ground," said Kostacopoulos. "Once we got the lead, he just pumped strikes and that's what you want."
Alex Azor returned to the lineup on Wednesday after missing the last 11 games due to injury and made his impact right away. Azor belted the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the first inning for a triple and later came around to score and tie the game at one.
In the bottom of the second inning, Azor gave Navy a 3-1 lead with a two-RBI single.
"Alex is a great presence for us and we've missed that presence for about three weeks," said Kostacopoulos. "He gives our team some confidence and it was good to see him back out there playing."
After scoreless third and fourth innings, the Panthers loaded the bases with a bunt, hit batter and a single in the top of the fifth. Navy starter Preston Gainey hit the next batter, Jacob Reese, to bring in a run, and T.J. McManus followed with a two-RBI single to give the Panthers the lead, 4-3.
Navy responded to knot the game at four in the bottom of the fifth when Andrew Hahn reached on an error by McManus at first base, allowing Chris Cannon to score.
The two teams added to their totals again in the sixth inning. Reese drove in a run with single in the top of the inning, but Chance Jones responded to reclaim the lead for Navy, 6-5, with a two-RBI single to right-center field in the bottom of the frame.
Brant Valach drove in the final Panther run in the top of the seventh when his RBI single through the middle tied the game at six.
Eastern Illinois reliever Darin Worman, who took over in the sixth inning, was charged with the loss. He pitched one and two-thirds innings, allowing two runs off three hits.
Like Azor, Wednesday was Gainey's first game back since February. He pitched four and one-third innings and allowed four runs off four hits in his third-career start.
The Mids will be back in action tomorrow at Chain of Lakes Park when they take on Bradley at 6 p.m.