Navy Walks Off Game Two for Doubleheader Split with Bucknell
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The Navy baseball team earned an important doubleheader split with Bucknell on Saturday before a national television audience as CBS Sports Network broadcast the contests at Terwilliger Brothers Field at Max Bishop Stadium. With Patriot League postseason implications abound, the Mids (34-14, 14-4 PL) lost in game one, 5-0 to the Bison (19-24, 10-8 PL) before coming back in the second contest and winning in 10 innings, 5-4.
Coming into the day with a magic number of three to clinch the regular season title and number seed for the upcoming Patriot League postseason tournament, the Mids succumbed to the Bison's game one starting pitcher Connor Van Hoose, who tossed a complete game three-hit shutout. Navy gathered itself over the 40-minute break and came out with a solid offensive attack in game two and constantly kept the pressure on Bucknell with runners on in each of the first seven innings and four runs in the first four innings. After the Bison fought back to tie the game late at 4-4, Adrian Chinnery (Sr., Wilmington, Del.) came through in the bottom of the 10th with a walk-off safety squeeze.
"When you win the second game of a doubleheader you feel a little bit better, but it was still a split," remarked head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. "Van Hoose pitched really well in the first game and they just played a rock solid game and beat us. In game two it was back-and-forth with a lot of momentum shifts. It was hard to score today for whatever the reason. We just kept battling and we were able to get that last run."
Overall for the doubleheader, Navy's constant pecking away at Bucknell pitching had the team come away with a .274 combined batting average. Scott Koscho (So., Trafford, Pa.), Logan Knowles (Jr., Port Orchard, Wash.) and Chinnery led the Mids' effort with eight hits and four RBIs. Coming off the bench in game two, Koscho went three-for-five with a double and a run scored in his first start since March 16. The three hits were a career-high for the sophomore. Knowles had three hits and a run scored and Chinnery drove in a game-high two RBIs, including the game-winner in game two.
"Scott Koscho came off the bench for us in the second game and had a huge effort," said Kostacopoulos. "He hadn't played in a while, but he stepped in and got three hits and he was constantly around our offense when good things were happening; whether it was starting it or extending it."
On the mound, Navy received a strong start from George Coughlin (Sr., Arvada, Colo.) in game two as the right-hander hurled five innings and gave up two runs, while striking out six. He was backed up by solid relief outings from the trio of Brian Wikoff (Sr., Shrewsbury, N.J.), Sean Kamhoot (Jr., Gainesville, Fla.) and Jett Meenach (Sr., Flower Mound, Texas). Together the three relievers combined for 5.0 innings of six-hit, two-run action.
"We got a good start out of George," said Kostacopoulos. "He battled through five innings and got out of some tough jams for us. He was important in game two, as was Brian, Sean and Jett. They all pitched well."
Bucknell 5 - Navy 0
The Mids opened Saturday's doubleheader with runners on in both of its first two innings as Knowles led off the bottom of the first with a single up the middle before the Bison rolled up a double play to end the frame. In the second, Jacob Williamson (Fr., Sims, N.C.) and Christian Hodge (So., Winder, Ga.) went back-to-back with two-out singles before Van Hoose tallied his third strikeout of the inning.
Navy's starter Noah Song (So., Claremont, Calif.) answered Van Hoose's zeroes with three straight to open the contest.
The shutout was broken up in the top of the fourth when Bucknell manufactured three runs on three hits and a walk. Chuckie Scales came through with the big hit as the right-fielder singled to left field to score two.
With the score 3-0 in favor of the visiting Bison, Van Hoose continued to keep the Mids' bats silent as he didn't allow a hit for the rest of the seven-inning game.
Bucknell added two insurance runs in the top of the sixth to close the scoring at 5-0.
Rece Goodman (So., Irvine, Calif.) supplied Navy with 1.2 innings of hitless, scoreless relief of Song, who departed with a final line of 5.1 innings, eight hits, five runs, two walks and five strikeouts.
For the game, Bucknell outhit Navy, 8-3.
Navy 5 - Bucknell 4 (10 innings)
After a tough start to the day, the Mids regrouped quickly and came out ready to fight for the doubleheader split in game two. The Bison initially had a different idea as Sam Clark took a Coughlin offer out over the right field wall for a solo home run in the top of the first.
Down early 1-0, Navy struck back immediately in the bottom of the first as Knowles once again led off with a first inning single. Following a sacrifice bunt by Travis Blue (Sr., Orange, Calif.) moved him into scoring position and Stephen Born (Jr., Strafford, Pa.) grounded out to the right side of the infield, Knowles came into score on an infield single by Leland Saile (Sr., Land O'Lakes, Fla.).
Coughlin looked to settle in during the second, but that process was rudely interrupted by Luke Johnson who laced a line drive back up the middle that hit Coughlin on his throwing arm and deflected seamlessly to Blue at shortstop for a 1-6-3 put out. Shaking off the comebacker, Coughlin hit his stride over the next two-plus innings as he struck out Tyler Wincig to end the second before striking out the side in the third. He added his sixth strike out of the game in the top of the fourth with a strike three looking versus Evan Klugerman.
With Coughlin navigating Bucknell's lineup with solid results, Navy's offense went to work in the third inning and took the lead, 2-1 with the combination of an error, a hit by pitch, sacrifice bunt and wild pitch.
In the ensuing inning, the Mids expanded their advantage out to 4-1 as Koscho and Hodge went back-to-back with extra-base hits, as Koscho shot a ground-rule double over the left field wall before Hodge stroked a triple to the right-center field gap. Hodge would score in the next at bat as Chinnery lofted a sacrifice fly to right field.
Bucknell got one final chance to swing it versus Coughlin in the top of the fifth and Bison got two hits and a sacrifice fly to add one run to its total and make it 4-2.
Coughlin would exit the game after the fifth with his pitch count at 98. The senior's final line was 5.0 innings, six hits, two runs, one walk and six strikeouts.
He would give way to fellow senior Brian Wikoff, who pitched around a one-out situation with runners on second and third. The left-hander forced a foul pop out to first base and a weak ground out to first to come out of the sixth inning unscathed.
In the top of the seventh, Bucknell dug out of its deficit as the visitors used a double, an error and two two-out singles to tie the score at 4-4.
With the score knotted, Navy nearly responded with a run of its own in the bottom of the seventh, but a one-out double by Blue would go for naught as the newly-inserted Bucknell reliever Jack Simpson got consecutive outs to quell the threat.
The game moved quickly into the ninth as both Kamhoot for Navy and Simpson for Bucknell had three-up, three-down innings in the eighth. Those were the first clean frames for either team in game two.
In the ninth, the Bison pressed the Mids to go to the bullpen with a one-out double by Clark. Ushered in for the pressure situation, Meenach calmly dispatched of the issue with two infield pop ups.
Navy tried to walk it off in the bottom of the ninth as Zach Biggers (Fr, Walhalla, S.C.) and Knowles led off with back-to-back singles. Bucknell got out of the jam with a fielder's choice put out at third base and later a double play.
After a scoreless top of the tenth inning, the Mids tried their hand once again in the walk-off game as Williamson and Koscho both reached to start off the frame. An under-the-radar hustle play by Hodge to beat out a potential double play set up runners on first and third with one out for Navy. On the first pitch of his at bat, Chinnery executed a crisp safety squeeze bunt past the pitcher Simpson, who had a pronounced fall off the mound towards third base. Slow to respond, the ball skipped past Simpson to his left and Williamson darted home to give Navy the exciting 5-4 walk-off victory.
"We caught a break with that play," exclaimed Kostacopoulos. "Usually when you contest a game like that between two evenly-matched teams most of the time it's just one break that helps you win the game. Today it was us who caught the break."
For the game, Navy outhit Bucknell, 14-12. Koscho (3), Knowles (2), Blue (2), Born (2) and Chinnery (2) all recorded multiple hits for the Mids in the win.
While Coughlin took a no-decision for his work, Meenach was the beneficiary of the extra-inning victory as he improved to 5-1 on the season. The sidearmer threw 24 pitches over 1.2 innings and didn't allow a hit.
In terms of Navy's quest for the regular season title, a split by Holy Cross at Lafayette on Saturday shrank Navy's magic number to one heading into Sunday. Any combination of a Mids' win or a Crusaders' loss will allow Navy to claim the 2017 regular season title.
The teams will complete the four-game series on Sunday with a 12 p.m. doubleheader at Bishop Stadium. Prior to the contest at 11:40 a.m., the Mids' eight-man senior class will be honored in a Senior Day ceremony.
Patriot League Standings (Post-4/29)
Navy: 14-4 *Clinched home semifinal series
Holy Cross: 12-6 *Clinched home semifinal series
Bucknell: 10-8 *Clinched postseason bid