Navy Baseball Battles to DH Sweep of Lehigh
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Navy baseball team earned two hard-fought victories in a doubleheader sweep at Lehigh on Saturday. The Mids (27-12, 8-2 PL) came from behind in game one to scratch out a tie with two outs in their final inning in game one before going ahead in extras to win by a count of 2-1 over the Mountain Hawks (11-22. 2-8 PL). In the second game, Navy trailed 2-0 after three, but immediately responded with three combined runs over the fourth and fifth innings before clutch pitching closed out the 3-2 win at Walker Field at Legacy Park.
Navy's pitching staff played a leading role in the doubleheader sweep as the Mids used four pitchers and allowed nine total hits and three runs over 18 innings of play on Saturday. Noah Song (So., Claremont, Calif.) hurled 6.1 innings of one-run baseball in game one before being relieved by Jett Meenach (Sr., Flower Mound, Texas), who closed out the win with 2.2 innings of hitless shutout pitching. In game two, George Coughlin (Sr., Arvada, Colo.) threw 7.0 innings and allowed just two third-inning runs before giving way to Sean Kamhoot (Jr., Gainesville, Fla.), who mirrored Meenach's hitless outing with a flawless eighth and ninth innings.
"Our pitchers were outstanding today, they pitched well and were in control of a potent Lehigh lineup for most of the day," exclaimed head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. "We never had a really rough inning. They gave us 18 great innings over two games. All four guys that pitched today, Noah, George, Jett and Sean, were outstanding. Jett got us out of a second and third one-out situation in game one to extend the game; that was huge."
Navy's offense was slightly more sporadic than usual on Saturday, but the Mids made the majority of their 12 total hits count. In game one, Zach Biggers (Fr., Walhalla, S.C.) scored both the game-tying and go-ahead runs in the 2-1 win as he drew a seventh-inning walk and later came through in the ninth with a solo home run. Christian Hodge (So., Winder, Ga.) and Leland Saile (Sr., Land O'Lakes, Fla.) sparked the Mids in game two as Hodge connected for a two-run home run in the top of the fourth before Saile notched the eventual game-winning run on a solo homer in the fifth.
"There were two critical at bats for us in game one; first was Zach's at bat in the seventh where he fouls off a ton of pitches and draws a walk on the 11th pitch, then Logan [Knowles] gets a walk and sets Travis [Blue] up to get a single to score a run. All of this came with two outs to tie the game," remarked Kostacopoulos. "In the ninth, Zach came through again with the go-ahead home run to cap another quality at bat. He was certainly the offensive MVP in game one.
"In the second game we got a couple of big hits with Hodge's home run first and then Leland's home run later and that was all of our offensive production. We'll need to do a better job at the plate tomorrow. Today was one of those days were we just didn't get the results we would've liked on offense, but we were fortunate that our pitching staff was so strong that we could come away with two wins."
Navy 2 - Lehigh 1 (9 innings)
The action on Saturday was dominated by the pitching and the tone was set very earlier by both Song for Navy and Connor Donovan for Lehigh.
After Lehigh's leadoff hitter James Bleming touched up Song for a single in the bottom of the first, Navy's defense took care of the threat with a caught stealing put out by Adrian Chinnery (Sr., Wilmington, Del.) to Jacob Williamson (Fr., Sims, N.C.) at third base. The Mountain Hawk bats would go quiet after the first.
Starting in the second, Song made quick work of Lehigh with three-up, three-down frames in two consecutive innings. With one strikeout to his name from the first, the tall right-hander tallied two in each of the second and third innings.
Navy's offense was held equally in check by Donovan with just Saile and Chinnery reaching over the first four innings. Saile singled in the second and walked in the fourth, while Chinnery took advantage of a Lehigh fielding error.
The arch of the pitcher's duel changed in the bottom of the fourth when the host Mountain Hawks used a leadoff walk and a two-out double to score the game's first run.
With the score 1-0 in favor of Lehigh, Navy challenged in each of the next two innings as Chinnery was robbed of a potential extra-base hit to the wall as the Mountain Hawks' centerfielder Chris Kersey sprinted back and made an over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track.
Song did his part to hold the line as he forced three pop outs in the fifth before striking out the side in the bottom of the sixth with three called third strikes.
The game moved briskly along into its final inning of regulation play in the top of the seventh and things looked bleak for the Mids as Donovan retired the first two hitters on ground balls. With the game on the line, Biggers and Donovan engaged in an epic battle with each combatant looking for an edge. Once down 1-2 in the count, Biggers drew even at 2-2 before he ran off five foul balls over six pitches and eventually earned a walk on pitch number 11. That at-bat ran Donovan's pitch count up to 105 and the call was made to go to the bullpen. The newly-inserted Mountain Hawk reliever Peter Moore walked the first batter he faced in Logan Knowles (Jr., Port Orchard, Wash.) before Travis Blue (Sr., Orange, Calif.) squared up a 0-1 pitch and shot a single up the middle to score Biggers and tie the game.
Tied 1-1, Song started the bottom of the seventh, but ran into trouble as the first three Lehigh batters reached, though the leadoff man was thrown out trying to steal by Chinnery to dampen the threat a bit. After a double by David Young put runners on second and third, the decision was made to enter Meenach into the game. The senior sidearmer calmly tip-toed through the tense situation with a strikeout of Chris Kersey and a weak ground ball out back to the mound by Ryan Malloy.
Both relievers posted zeroes in the eighth before Navy broke through versus Moore in the top of the ninth. Biggers was the catalyst once again as the freshman sent a line drive home run out over the right-center field wall with two outs to put the Mids ahead 2-1.
Meenach locked down the victory with a three-up, three-down bottom of the ninth on two grounders back to the mound and another strikeout.
For the game, Lehigh outhit Navy, 5-4. Four Mids recorded solo hits for the Mids.
In a no-decision, Song finished with a line of 6.1 innings, five hits, two walks and one run allowed with nine strikeouts.
In his fourth relief win of the year, Meenach threw 2.2 scoreless and hitless innings, while striking out three.
Navy 3 - Lehigh 2
After a tough game one for both offenses, the teams came out looking to make things happen early in game two. Coughlin for Navy and James Reynolds for Lehigh had other ideas for the first inning and the game quickly progressed to the second at 0-0. Coughlin was feeling it early as he struck out the first two batters he faced with strike three looking.
Navy challenged in the top of the second and loaded the bases with no outs on singles by Evan Lowery (Fr., Williamsburg, Va.) and Williamson and a HBP of Chinnery, but Reynolds and his defense came away unscathed. Coughlin and the Mids wouldn't be as lucky in the bottom of the second as the Mountain Hawks tallied two runs on three hits.
The game advanced to the fourth with Lehigh in the lead at 2-0 before Williamson and Hodge sparked Navy's offense. Following a double by Williamson, Hodge took a two-out offering by Reynolds deep over the left field wall for his third home run of the season and just like that the game was tied at 2-2.
Another two-out long ball in the fifth put Navy ahead 3-2 as Saile crushed a solo home run out to left field well past the 375' sign on the wall. The home run was Saile's eighth of the year and moved him into a tie for fourth all-time in Navy's single-season record book with Michael Speciale (2010) and Mitch Harris (2007).
After his slight slip up in the second inning, Coughlin was in command of Lehigh over the rest of his stay in the game as he allowed just one hit and two walks before exiting following the seventh inning.
Kamhoot, a first-year reliever, took the baton from Coughlin for the eighth and ninth innings and pitched like a wily veteran as he navigated the top-six hitters in Lehigh's lineup with three ground outs in the eighth and three fly outs in the ninth to close out the 3-2 and earn his first career save. Of note in the ninth, the junior right-hander won a 10-pitch battle with Connor Donovan, Lehigh's DH in game two, and forced a fly out to Saile in right field.
For the game, Navy outhit Lehigh, 8-4. Williamson recorded a game-high three hits for the Mids.
In his fourth victory of the year, Coughlin posted a final line of 7.0 innings, four hits, two walks and two runs allowed with five strikeouts.
For his save, Kamhoot hurled 19 pitches and recorded a line of 2.0 innings with no hits, no walks and no runs allowed.
The Mids and Mountain Hawks will complete their four-game series on Sunday with two more contests at Walker Field at Legacy Park in Bethlehem, Pa. First pitch of the doubleheader is slated for 12 p.m.