Holy Cross Knocks Off Navy in Extra Innings, 3-2
WORCESTER, Mass. – The Navy baseball team lost a hard-fought 3-2 extra-inning road contest on Sunday at Patriot League rival, Holy Cross. Taking an initial 2-0 lead and riding a start by Nicholas Elder (So., Roanoke, Va.) that saw the right-hander set down the first 16 Crusaders (11-13, 6-4 PL) in order, the Mids (25-9, 9-5 PL) succumbed to a strong relief pitching and eventually a walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th inning to fall in the final contest of their three-game series at Fitton Field.
The trio of Elder, Zach Biggers (So., Walhalla, S.C.) and Stephen Born (Sr., Strafford, Pa.) spearheaded Navy’s individual efforts on Sunday. Making his first career Patriot League start, Elder was lights out to open the game as the sophomore hurled 5.1 no-hit innings. Touched up for two hits and two runs at the tail end of his start, Elder finished the game with a line of 5.2 innings, two hits, two runs, no walks and seven strikeouts.
At the plate, Biggers and Born were around Navy’s offense all game as each player had two hits and an RBI.
“That was a hard-fought, tight, extra-inning ball game,” exclaimed head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. “Neither team had a great offensive flow going today, but that’s a credit to the two pitching staffs that dominated the game. We got a very good start out of Nick Elder and good efforts out of our staff as a whole. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get that big hit. We had a lot of good opportunities and left guys on base; we just couldn’t get them home.
“Nick was really good and retired the first 16 guys. He kept the ball down. He’s been building himself up. He has taken advantage of some midweek starts and continued to show improvement. Efforts like this will help him add to our staff down the stretch this season.”
Navy pestered Holy Cross with constant pressure at the plate over the opening innings as the visitors had two runners on in each of the first two off of the Crusaders starting pitcher, Declan Cronin.
Holy Cross had no such response versus Elder as the right-handed hurler had two strikeouts in each of the first, second and third innings as the Crusaders went down nine-up, nine-down.
The Mids finally broke through onto the scoreboard in the top of the fifth as Michael Coritz (So., Clifton, Va.) led off with a bloop double down the left field line. After advancing to third on a ground out, Biggers plated his double play partner with a single up the middle. The next batter, Born made it a 2-0 game with a double to left field.
Holding a two-run lead, Elder continued his flawless start to the game with another three-up, three-down frame in the bottom of the fifth.
Holy Cross found its way into the hit and scoring column in the home half of the sixth. After tallying his seventh strikeout of the game to start the frame, the Crusaders’ David Kale broke up the perfect game with a soft dribbler that squeaked past the pitchers’ mound and in front of second base. Another single and a sacrifice fly quickly got the hosts on the scoreboard at a 2-1 deficit. Holy Cross would tie the game up at 2-2 during its next at bat, thereby putting an end to Elder’s performance on Sunday.
Counting this past Wednesday’s three innings of perfect, shutout baseball versus Delaware State and the final inning of his outing against Coppin State on March 28, Elder had run off a 9.1-inning span where he retired 28 consecutive batters.
Faced with a new 2-2 ballgame, the Mids’ offense went to work trying to jump in front of the Crusaders once again. In the seventh, Logan Knowles (Sr., Port Orchard, Wash.) led off with a single, stole second and reached third on a wild pitch before being stranded by Holy Cross’ reliever Danny Barlok.
Navy threatened again in the eighth with the bases loaded and one, and in the ninth with a leadoff single and walk. While the Mids found initial sparks in each situation Barlok pitched out of the jams. The Holy Cross reliever scattered three hits and three walks over his 4.2 scoreless innings on the mound.
The Mids’ first reliever Sante Grossi (Fr., Riverside, Calif.) was equally as gutsy as he pitched Navy through the eighth inning with the score still knotted at 2-2. He pitched around two hits and two walks and finished with two strikeouts over his clean 2.1 innings.
In the last half inning of regulation, the Crusaders got two men on base with one out. The newly-inserted reliever Colin Brady (Sr., Seneca, S.C.) and 3B Jacob Williamson (So., Sims, N.C.) short-circuited this threat as Brady got Alex Gionis to ground out into a double play. On the well struck grounder, Williamson snagged the ball, stepped on third and fired a dart across the diamond to get Gionis at first base.
After Navy went down in order in the top of the 10th, Holy Cross earned the walk-off victory in the bottom of the inning on a Cam O’Neill single to left field.
In their 3-2 defeat, the Mids outhit the Crusaders, 10-7. Biggers, Born, Coritz and Christian Hodge all had two hits for Navy.
Led by Saturday’s doubleheader sweep, Navy won two of this weekend’s three games in Worcester.
“Whenever you can win a series in the Patriot League it’s going to be important,” said Kostacopoulos. “The competitiveness of the first game of every series with some really good pitching is always heightened. Over each series, you seen the similarities of every team’s talent so to win two of three, that’s good. Now today we would’ve like to get the sweep, but we’ll take the series win.”
Navy will be back in action on Wednesday at home with a non-conference matchup with Georgetown. First pitch between the Mids and Hoyas at Max Bishop Stadium is set for 3 p.m.