Navy Wins Patriot League Regular Season Championship with DH Sweep
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The Navy baseball team wrapped up its Patriot League regular season with an exclamation point on Sunday with a doubleheader sweep of Bucknell to claim the 2017 Patriot League Regular Season Championship. Needing one win at Terwilliger Brothers Field at Max Bishop Stadium to earn the title outright, the Mids (36-14, 16-4 PL) accomplished that with a 6-1 victory in game one before coming back in the second game and rolling the Bison (19-26, 10-10 PL) by an 11-1 score.
Following a Senior Day ceremony to celebrate their four years of excellence, it was only fitting that Navy was led by its Class of 2017 in game one as Kyle Condry (Sr., Highland Village, Texas) hurled a complete game six-hitter and Leland Saile (Sr., Land O'Lakes, Fla.) provided the firepower on offense with a three-run home run in the Mids' 6-1 victory. A stellar pitching performance from the duo of Andrew Sauer (So., Johns Creek, Ga.) and Trey Seabrooke (Fr., Jacksonville, Fla.) and constant offensive pressure keyed Navy in the second contest.
"Kyle has been amazing for us all year, especially once conference play started and he did it again for us today," said head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. "He pitched us a real quality game and is now 5-0 in the league. We backed up his performance with some really good defense. We made all of the necessary plays, as well as some really nice ones. We didn't kick it around and give Bucknell extra chances. That was big for us throughout the day.
"Game one was a real tight ball game until Leland came through with a three-run homer in the sixth that led to some separation. In the second game, Andrew gave us a tremendous start. He was a little shaky early, but worked through it and really settled in. Our defense backed him up and our offense pecked away throughout and built up a pretty good lead."
On the mound, Navy used three pitchers to navigate the 16.0 innings versus Bucknell on Sunday. Together the trio of Condry, Sauer and Seabrooke combined to allow just 13 hits and two runs over the doubleheader. Condry went 7.0 innings in a complete game effort in game one before Sauer responded with 6.0 scoreless frames in game two. Seabrooke closed out Sauer's career-best start with a 3.0-inning save.
"All day our pitching was very good," said Kostacopoulos. "We had to fight back in a few at bats, but for the majority of the day, our guys were ahead in counts and filling up the zone. I thought that our pitchers were confident in their abilities, as well as their defense behind them. They got some early outs and things flowed from there."
Offensively, Saile, Travis Blue (Sr., Orange, Calif.) and Christian Hodge (So., Winder, Ga.) all had a strong doubleheader effort as the three Mids recorded 11 of the team's 17 RBIs. Saile upped his season total to 58 RBIs with a team-high five RBIs on Sunday, while Blue backed up his classmate with four RBIs and a double. Hitting from the seven-hole, Hodge provided solid depth to Navy's lineup with a double, two runs scored and two RBIs.
Navy 6 - Bucknell 1
The action on Sunday started at a rather pedestrian pace as both teams struggled early on offense and hung zeroes on the scoreboard in each of the first two innings. Condry's opening two frames were aided by an outstanding effort in left field by Stephen Born (Jr., Strafford, Pa.), who raced back on a high fly from Luke Johnson and caught the ball with one hand on the wall.
After starting the game six-up, six-down, the Mids' offense started gaining traction in the bottom of the third on the Bison's pitcher Jeff Gottesman. Hodge got the wheels rolling with a double to left-center field. After advancing to third base on a ground out, Zach Biggers (Fr., Walhalla, S.C.) broke the scoreless tie with a sacrifice fly to bring home Hodge. Navy immediately increased its lead to 2-0 within two batters as Logan Knowles (Jr., Port Orchard, Wash.) walked, was balked to second and came into score on a single to center by Blue.
Bucknell fought back in the top of the fourth to slice a run off of its two-run deficit as Keifer Rawlings connected on a Condry offering for a leadoff solo home run.
The game stayed at a 2-1 margin into the bottom of the sixth as both hurlers pitched around some traffic on the base paths. In Navy's home portion of the sixth inning, a one-out walk to Blue by Gottesman started a four-run rally. Following Blue's walk, Born was also walked to put two on for Saile, who crushed the first pitch he saw deep over the left field wall for a three-run homer. A pinch-hit single by Scott Koscho (So., Trafford, Pa.) eventually resulted in the fourth run of the inning as Hodge recorded an RBI ground out.
With the pressure of a 2-1 game alleviated a bit with the scoreboard showing Navy ahead 6-1, Condry locked down the victory in the seventh with three strikeouts.
In the win, Navy was outhit by Bucknell, 6-5. Five different Mids tallied hits in the contest.
Improving to 6-1 on the season, Condry finished his fourth complete game of 2017 with a line of 7.0 innings, six hits, two walks and one run allowed with five strikeouts over 108 pitches. A standout in Patriot League play this year, Condry dropped his conference ERA to 1.35 with five runs allowed over 33.1 innings in five starts. Overall in 2017, Condry's ERA stands at 2.95 over 64.0 innings.
Navy 11 - Bucknell 1
Game two started inauspiciously for the host Midshipmen as Bucknell had runners on first and third versus Sauer before the sophomore right-hander buckled down and got back-to-back outs to skirt the threat.
After a three-up, three-down first for Navy, Bucknell responded immediately in the top of the second and reapplied the pressure with a leadoff single. After a pop-up to Blue at shortstop, Sauer started a 1-6-3 double play on a grounder back to the mound to end the inning.
Sparked by its defense, Navy came out in the bottom half of the second and took a 1-0 lead on a walk to Koscho and an RBI single by Adrian Chinnery (Sr., Wilmington, Del.) three batters later.
Spotted a lead and starting to settle in Sauer mowed down the Bison in order in the third to quickly get his offense back out to bat. Navy responded with two runs in the bottom of the frame to expand its advantage out to 3-0. A leadoff single by Knowles started the activity as he moved to second base on a wild pitch before getting singled in by Blue. Born would net Navy its second run of the inning with a single, stolen base, wild pitch and an RBI ground out by Saile.
After pitching around a leadoff double in the top of the fourth, Sauer saw his offense double its lead from 3-0 to 6-0 in the fourth. Singles by Hodge, Chinnery and Biggers loaded the bases before Bucknell's pitchers lost the strike zone and allowed walks to Blue and Saile and a hit-by-pitch to Born to force in three runs.
With the score 6-0, Sauer sailed over his final two innings, the fifth and sixth, with three ground outs, two fly outs and a strikeout.
He exited the game with a final line of 6.0 innings, four hits, one walk, no runs and two strikeouts. Prior to Sunday, the first-year starter's longest start was 5.0 innings at Holy Cross where he allowed a then- season-low two runs. Sauer threw 91 pitches on Sunday in what was likely his final start of the year as Patriot League postseason play only requires three starting pitchers.
Navy continued extending its lead off of Bucknell's bullpen with five more runs over the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Koscho and Jacob Williamson (Fr., Sims, N.C.) registered RBIs in the sixth, while Knowles notched an RBI triple in the seventh to score Michael Coritz (Fr., Clifton, Va.). Blue recorded his third and final RBI of the game later in the seventh when his ground out plated Knowles. In the eighth, a two-out triple by Matthew Wilcox (So., Los Gatos, Calif.) and single by Hodge manufactured the Mids' 11th run.
Coming in on relief of Sauer, Seabrooke threw for the first time since April 19 and looked strong as he recorded a three-inning save. After a three-up, three-down seventh, he forced two grounders and a notched a strikeout in the eighth. Bucknell mounted its first scoring drive of the game in the top of the ninth with a double and single to break onto the scoreboard versus Seabrooke. The freshman right-hander finished with a line of 3.0 innings, three hits, no walks, one run and one strikeout over an efficient 32 pitches.
In the 11-1 victory, Navy outhit Bucknell, 13-7. Knowles, Blue, Williamson, Hodge and Chinnery all had two hits for the Mids in the win. In total, 11 different players recorded either a hit, RBI or scored a run in game two.
For the series, Navy went 3-1 and showed strong in all facets of the game with a .294 batting average, 2.73 ERA and .985 fielding percentage. The success this weekend will be of the upmost importance moving forward as the Mids and Bison will face-off in two weeks once again in Annapolis for the Patriot League Semifinals on May 13-14.
"Taking three of four this weekend is great," said Kostacopoulos. "They're a really good ball club and we'll see them again in the first round. To close out the Patriot League season with three wins and taking the regular season this was a very productive weekend. Winning the regular season championship is always a goal of ours and that's an accomplishment that we can hang our hat on. Now we have to turn our attention to the postseason."
Following a 2-2 series between Army and Lehigh in Bethlehem this weekend, the Black Knights passed the Bison in the standings and claimed the third seed. Army will travel to Holy Cross on the weekend of May 13-14 for the other Patriot League Semifinal best-of-three series.
Prior to Sunday's first game, Navy's eight-man Class of 2017: Travis Blue, Adrian Chinnery, team captain Kyle Condry, George Coughlin, student assistant coach Adam Johnson, Jett Meenach, Leland Saile and Brian Wikoff were honored for its contributions to the baseball program over the past four years. The winningest class in the 122 years of Navy baseball, the Class of 2017 has won 139 games to date.
"The impact by our senior class is so evident when you look at our program, especially if you look at the last three seasons," remarked Kostacopoulos. "During 2014, their freshmen year, we struggled a little bit, but we made the playoffs. Even during that season you could see that something was growing there. They got right after it as sophomores in conjunction with their teammates and continued to work hard and grow. That maturation continues to today. They've definitely changed the trajectory of the program over their four years with the team."
Navy will take a step away from conference competition for the next two weeks, but will stay active over the next seven days with a Tuesday afternoon matchup with UMBC at 3:30 p.m. as well as with a Sunday afternoon game against Susquehanna University at 1:30 p.m. in a contest that was added to the schedule over the last four days. Both single-game competitions will take place at Max Bishop Stadium.
Final Patriot League Standings
Holy Cross: 12-8
Army: 10-10 (3-1 tie-breaker over Bucknell)
Navy's 16-4 conference mark is the best in school-history since the Patriot League went to a 20-game schedule in 1996.