April 23, 2014
DOVER, Del. – The Navy baseball team (22-23) fell on the road on Wednesday afternoon to a hard-hitting Delaware State (21-13) squad by a final score of 13-8. Coming into the matchup as the nation’s leading team in terms of combined batting average with a .340 mark, the host Hornets registered 18 hits off of Midshipmen pitching and came-from-behind with six runs in the eighth inning to earn the win.
Offensively, the top two hitters in Navy’s batting order, Robert Currie (So., Atlanta, Ga.) and Travis Blue (Fr., Orange, Calif.) each went 2-for-4 with multiple RBIs. From the leadoff spot, Currie had two RBIs, while Blue had three from the two-hole. Jack Keller (Jr., Ballston Spa., N.Y.) was another highlight for the Midshipmen’s offense as he scored a team-high three runs on Wednesday.
On the mound, Andrew Bartek (So., Jefferson, Ga.) and Kevin McKelvey (Fr., West Covina, Calif.) gave Navy 5.1 innings of one-run relief and allowed the Midshipmen to come back from an early 6-3 deficit and eventually take a lead in the seventh inning.
“It was a competitive one-run game into the eighth inning, but we just didn’t do a good job out of the bullpen in the late innings. We just couldn’t accumulate the outs at the end of the game and that really was the story,” said Navy head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. “Give them credit, they swung the bats extremely well; there’s a reason the lead the nation in team batting average, but at the same time we have to do a better job pitching.”
The Hornets jumped out to an early 1-0 lead over the Mids and starting pitcher George Coughlin
(Fr., Arvada, Colo.) in the first inning as the number two and three hitters in their lineup, Cameron Cecil and Aaron Nardone went back-to-back with doubles to the left-center field gap. Coughlin got out of further damage and left Nardone stranded at second with a fly out by Mike Alexander and a swinging strike out of Eddie Sorondo.
Down by a run, Navy came out in the second inning and responded with three runs to take the lead. A two-out error by Delaware State’s shortstop extended the frame and gave the Mids new life. After Brandon Beans (Sr., Hartsville, S.C.) reached on the error, the next batter, Keller, drew a walk to give Navy runners on first and second and set the stage for Currie to drive in his team’s first run of the game with single through the left side of the infield. Blue plated Keller and Currie in the next at bat with a double to center field to give Navy the 3-1 lead.
The Mids didn’t hold the advantage for long as the Hornets recorded six hits and batted around in the bottom of the second to go ahead 6-3. The big blow in that frame was a three-run home run off the bat of Chris Gonzalez over the left field wall.
The margin stayed at 6-3 into the fourth inning before Keller reached on an error and came into score on a single through the right side by Blue. The freshman shortstop was credited with RBIs on three of Navy’s first four runs.
Similar to the second inning, a Midshipmen run was quickly responded to with a Hornet run to push the host’s lead back out to three at 7-4.
Outside of that fourth inning run, the relief duo of Bartek and McKelvey held Delaware State’s potent offense at bay for over five innings in the middle portion of the contest. This work by the two pitchers allowed Navy to scratch away at the Hornets’ advantage and eventually re-take the lead.
The Mids cut the 7-4 margin to one run in the sixth inning when Keller scored on a fielding error and Blue scored on a line drive single up the middle by Jett Meenach (Fr., Flower Mound, Texas). This RBI by Meenach was the first of the freshman’s career.
Navy finished its comeback in the seventh with two more runs as the Mids took advantage of a pair of Hornet errors. Leland Saile (Fr., Land O’Lakes, Fla.) was the first beneficiary of DSU’s defensive woes as he reached safely on an error and came around to score on a Currie RBI. Beans scored Navy’s eighth run of the game after reaching on a well-placed bunt single and a fielder’s choice grounder by Kash Manzelli (Sr., Dunwoody, Ga.).
One final scoreless inning of relief by McKelvey in the bottom of the seventh allowed the Midshipmen to takes their 8-7 lead into the eighth.
The lead would change hands for the final time in the bottom of the eighth when Delaware State batted around for the second time on Wednesday and plated six runs on five hits, one walk, one hit by pitch and a two-base fielding error.
The scoring would go final at 13-8 in the non-conference matchup. The host Hornets outhit the Midshipmen, 18-10. Eight of Navy’s nine starters reached base at least once versus Delaware State pitching. Currie and Blue each had two hits to lead the Mids.
“I can’t say it enough, Robert has been great all year for us,” said Kostacopoulos when asked about the production from the top of his lineup. “Travis has really started putting some good at bats together these last few weeks so they both continue to do a good job for us at the top of the batting order.”
Sam Sorenson (So., Etters, Pa.) took the loss for Navy as he allowed the first three runs in the eighth inning, while Eric Sharff earned the victory with 2.2 scoreless innings of work out of the bullpen for DSU. After entering with two outs in the second inning, Bartek went 3.0 innings and struck out three, while allowing just one run on a solo home run in the fourth. McKelvey took the ball after Bartek and pitched 2.1 scoreless innings with three strikeouts and only one hit allowed.
“Kevin did a great job for us; Andrew did a good job, they both helped us stay close and extend the game,” said Kostacopoulos.
Navy will now turn its attention to this weekend where it will host Army in the culmination of its 2014 Patriot League regular season schedule. The four-game set begins Saturday at noon and will play a large role in possible postseason tournament positioning for both teams, as well as deciding the overall victor in the 2013-14 Army-Navy Star series. The Midshipmen and Black Knight programs are currently tied at 11 wins each across 22 previous Star meetings in various sports during this school year.