April 30, 2011
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -
The Navy baseball team clinched a spot in the Patriot League Tournament by defeating Lafayette, 4-2, in game one of a doubleheader on Saturday at Max Bishop Stadium. The Midshipmen rallied in game two, but fell, 9-8, and are now 27-19-1, overall, and 11-7 in conference play.
Navy used a career-best 10-strikeout, complete-game effort from starting pitcher Ben Nelson to win game one. Nelson scattered five hits, didn't allow an earned run and did not issue a walk as he picked up his fifth win of the season.
"That was just a huge, huge effort from Ben," said Navy head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. "He was totally in control of the game at a time when we really needed it. For him to give us a quality performance and a complete game was big for this team."
Lafayette scored its only runs of the game in the top of the third inning when it took advantage of a Navy error. With runners on first and second, courtesy of an error and single, Alex Bechta made it a 2-0 game with an RBI base hit.
Like Lafayette in the inning before, Navy capitalized on an error by the Leopards in the bottom of the fourth to get its first run of the day. With runners at first and second and one out, Nick Driscoll sent a ball toward Lafayette shortstop Brian Davila, who mishandled it and allowed a run to score.
The Mids stranded two in the bottom of the fourth, but with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, they broke through with three runs to take the lead for good.
With two outs and Alex Azor and Greg Dupell on base, Taylor Cato belted a double up the middle that brought in Azor to tie the game at two.
Cato finished game one 3-for-3.
The next batter, Dave Milanes sent a ball toward shallow right field, just inside the foul line. The ball dropped in front of the right fielder, Bechta, allowing both Dupell and Cato to score and give Navy a 4-2 lead.
Nelson sent the Leopards down in order in the fourth and fifth innings and allowed one hit in the sixth. The righty allowed a one-out single in the top of the seventh, but responded by picking up his 10th strikeout of the game in the next at-bat, and then got Brian Davila to fly out left field and end the game.
Lafayette starting pitcher Zach Fritz worked five complete innings and allowed three earned runs off nine hits and took the loss.
The Leopards bounced back in game two to take a 4-0 lead after two complete innings, keyed by a two-out single from Bechta in the top of the second.
Cato put Navy on the board with an RBI single in the third and Brandon Beans made it a 4-2 game with a two-out, RBI double to deep left field in the fourth frame.
After Lafayette pushed across a solo run in the fifth, Navy made it a one-run game in the bottom of the seventh.
With two outs and two runners on, Milanes singled up the middle off Lafayette reliever Sean McGrath that scored two runs and made it a 5-4 game.
But Lafayette responded by scoring twice in both the eighth and ninth innings. An RBI single by Matt Fenster and RBI fielder's choice by Scott Kelleher plated runs in the eighth, before a bases-loaded walk and balk brought in two more runs in the ninth.
Trailing 9-4, the Mids put two runners on with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Cato picked up his second RBI of the game to score the first run of the inning with a double.
Milanes then followed with his second, two-RBI single of the game as he pounded a ball through the left side that scored Bland and Cato to make the score 9-7.
Two batters later and now with two outs, Josh Moore single to right field and made it a one-run game.
Lafayette (16-24, 9-9) closer Jeff Snell finally put a halt to the Navy rally in the next at-bat when he got Beans to ground out.
Milanes finished 3-for-5 with four RBIs in game two and had a total of six RBIs on the day.
"Dave came up clutch today," Kostacopoulos said. "He competes when he's at the plate and really picked us up."
Lafayette's Connor Ortolf, who pitched 2.1 innings and allowed two unearned runs off two hits picked up the win.
Navy's Jordan Heller started and went 4.2 innings and took the loss to fall to 1-3.
With just two conference games to play, the Midshipmen enter Sunday's games alone in first place, one game ahead of Army.
"We've made tomorrow meaningful from a standpoint of what we have to do," said Kostacopoulos. "If we play good baseball tomorrow, we've got a shot at hosting some games and going into the last day in the course of a long season, that is what you are hoping for."
Navy and Lafayette will play their final doubleheader of the Patriot League regular season on Sunday at 12 p.m.
For updated information on the Patriot League standings and tiebreakers, visit PatriotLeague.org.
By winning game one, Navy clinched a spot in the Patriot League Tournament for the first time since 2008...All six Patriot League teams will play their final regular season games on Sunday.
With its win in game one, Navy improved to 23-3 when holding opponents to five runs or fewer...Navy's game one victory marked the first time it won game one of a series since March 26 when it defeated Princeton, 7-2.
Taylor Cato stretched his hitting streak to 14 games by picking up hits in both games on Saturday.
Ben Nelson has now pitched complete games in four of his last five starts.