March 23, 2014
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Navy and Princeton wrapped up its four-game weekend set on Sunday at Max Bishop Stadium with a doubleheader split. Playing a series that replicates the Patriot League dual doubleheader format, the Mids (12-11) and Tigers (5-11) each won a game on Sunday with Navy winning Game One, 8-2 and Princeton, Game Two, 4-2.
Stephen Moore (Roswell, Ga.) led a day full of strong pitching by the Mids with a complete game three-hitter in the first contest between the two teams. Throwing all seven innings, the junior struck out seven and allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits and a walk to improve his record to 2-2 on the season. In the second game, Navy’s bullpen hurled six innings of one-run baseball to keep its offense within striking distance.
Offensively, Drew Hayes (So., Collegeville, Pa.) recorded multiple hits in both games for the Mids as he went 2-for-3 with an RBI in Game One before duplicating that line in the second game. Standouts from the first game, included Robert Currie (So., Atlanta, Ga.) and Brandon Beans (Sr., Hartsville, S.C), who each went 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored.
“I thought in Game One, we played a pretty complete seven innings,” said Navy head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. “Stephen pitched well and threw the ball good with a lead; he didn’t lose focus and kept the game rolling. Offensively, we had 13 hits so that was a good showing with the bats. In the second game we struggled with a couple of things and got unlucky with a few plays like two line drive double plays. If either of those balls get through, we find ourselves in a completely different situation. We only had four hits, but we had a lot of opportunities.”
In the opener of Sunday’s twinbill, Navy jumped on Princeton’s starter Keelan Smithers with seven runs over his 2.2 innings on the mound. In the first inning, the Mids sent seven batters to the plate and manufactured a pair of runs on four hits. Travis Blue
(Fr., Orange, Calif.) kicked off the scoring when he drove in the leadoff hitter, Currie, with a single through the right side. Two batters later, it was Blue’s turn to score when Beans stroked a double to the left-center field gap to make it 2-0.
After his second straight three-up, three-down inning, Moore watched in the bottom of the second as his teammates extended Navy’s lead to 3-0 without recording a hit. Jack Keller (Jr., Ballston Spa, N.Y.) led off the inning with a hit by pitch before advancing on a walk to Jett Meenach (Fr., Flower Mound, Texas) and a wild pitch. Another free pass, this one to Currie, loaded the bases full of Mids and allowed Patrick Brady (Fr., Charlotte, N.C.) to score Keller on a 4-6-3 double play.
A Navy error in the top of third allowed Princeton to tighten the game to a 3-1 score before the hosts blew open the contest with a four-spot in the bottom of the inning. With one out on the scoreboard, Beans led a string of six straight batters to reach off of Tiger pitching. After Beans singled, Hayes was hit by pitch and Leland Saile (Fr., Land O’Lakes, Fla.) followed with an RBI single up the middle. With two-on and one-out, Keller singled to load the bases for Meenach, who hit into a fielder’s choice that saw Hayes erased at home, but the potential double play throw to first base sail deep into right field and allow Saile and Keller to score safely. Meenach scored Navy’s final run of the inning and game in the next at bat when Currie singled through the right side.
Spotted with an 8-1 lead, Moore cruised through the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, facing the minimum nine batters. Princeton finally scratched out its second run in the game’s final frame courtesy of a leadoff double and single to centerfield by Paul Tupper.
In the 8-2 contest, the victorious Mids outhit the Tigers, 13-3. Led by three-hit games from Currie and Beans, four Navy batters finished with multiple hits.
Moore earned the win to go to 2-2 in 2014, while Smithers (1-1) took the loss for Princeton.
In the second game of the doubleheader, the visiting Tigers replicated the fast start of the Mids from Game One as they scored three runs in their first three innings versus Navy starter George Coughlin (Fr., Arvada, Colo.). Princeton opened the game with two runs in the top of the first before tacking on a third run in the third.
The Mids tried to shave off runs off their deficit in each of the third and fourth innings with leadoff base runners, but the Tigers’ defense bailed out its starting pitcher Chad Powers with double plays in both instances.
Navy’s middle relief came up big in its possible comeback attempt as the trio of Michael McCormick (Fr., Speedway, Ind.), Charlie LaMar (Jr., Clearwater, Fla.) and Sam Sorenson (So., Etters, Pa.) held Princeton off the scoreboard from the fourth inning and into the ninth.
With the Tigers’ bats silenced the Mids were able to notch single runs in each of the sixth and eighth innings to tighten the game to a 3-2 margin. Navy’s sixth inning run came via a leadoff hit by pitch of Keller, a walk, a wild pitch and an RBI groundout by Currie. In the eighth, Keller got the offensive wheels in motion again with a one-out double down the left field line. After two straight walks loaded the bases, Hayes drove in Keller with a single to center field.
After Princeton used back-to-back triples to net an insurance run in the top of the ninth, Navy had one final chance to tie or win the game in the bottom of the inning. Saile attempted to rally his offense with a one-out single through the right side, but in an episode that happened five times in game, the Tigers were able to force a double play and short-circuit the Navy threat.
In the game that went final at 4-2, Princeton outhit Navy, 9-5. Hayes was the leading Midshipmen hitter as he went 2-for-3 with an RBI.
The Tigers’ Chad Powers earned the victory with six innings pitched and only one run allowed, while Coughlin took the loss for the Mids with a final line of three innings pitched, four strikeouts and three runs allowed on five hits and two walks.
“It’s always frustrating when you get guys in scoring position and you can’t get them home, but it’s part of the game sometimes,” said Kostacopoulos about Game Two. “In practice this week, we’ll have to do a better job in those situations of picking up runners and moving runners so we can ultimately score some runs.”
For the four-game series, the Mids and Tigers each earned two wins.
“What we found out this weekend was that we have a couple of middle relievers that can help us out and I think that’s a big thing to take from this series even though we went two and two,” said Kostacopoulos. “We found out some things about our bullpen arms that hadn’t seen a lot of innings before this weekend. Ridgeway and McKelvey came in and did good jobs when called upon so if we can continue to progress them along as young players, that’ll help us bridge the middle parts of the game.”
“It always helps to have at least one non-conference weekend that mirrors a Patriot League series because number one, the players learn what it’s like to play four games in 36 hours and number two, you have to use your pitching a little differently and that helps us out also,” said Kostacopoulous about the setup of this weekend’s series (two seven-inning Game Ones and two nine-inning Game Twos). It’s always good to have that in the last weekend before opening up the Patriot League to get a little taste of what we’ll be seeing over the next five weeks.”
Navy will have one more game to fine tune itself before Patriot League play opens next weekend with a Wednesday meeting at UMBC. The first pitch between the Midshipmen and Retrievers is scheduled for 3 p.m. UMBC took an earlier meeting over Navy in Annapolis by an 8-3 score.