ANNAPOLIS, Md. - With a 4-2 win over Lafayette in game two of a doubleheader on Sunday, the Navy baseball team captured the Patriot League regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament with a 12-8 league record. Navy will meet fourth-seeded Bucknell in a best-of-three series beginning May 14 at Max Bishop Stadium.
"One thing that has impressed me about this team is that they don't get too down," said Navy head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. "They just keep moving forward and are able to let things go when they don't necessarily go our way - today was a perfect example of that. We had some tough losses in games two and three, and in the last game we came out and just kept playing and were able to get the win."
Like Saturday's games that were decided by a total of three runs, Sunday's games were equally as tight. After dropping game one on Sunday, 4-3, Navy responded to defeat Lafayette (17-25, 10-10) in game two, 4-2, with a pair of solid pitching performances from Wes Olson and Preston Gainey.
"I think we're so used to playing in close games now," said Kostacopoulos. "We just expect the game will come down to a tight situation. I'm proud of the guys."
In his 15th appearance of the season and first start since his junior year, Olson gave the Mids a strong outing as he went six and one-third innings, allowing two runs off seven hits.
"When you're a reliever, you're usually coming into the game in a tough spot," said Olson. "The mindset has to be the same when you're starting a game."
Gainey replaced Olson in the seventh and went the rest of the way without allowing hit, while striking out three.
"Preston and Wes showed great poise, and that says a lot about who they are," Kostacopoulos said. "We needed every bit of their tenacity to win game four."
Game two was scoreless through the fourth inning as Olson and Lafayette starter Corey Shea limited both offenses.
After the Leopards got on the board in the top of the fifth inning with an RBI double by Rob Froio, who went 3-for-4 in game two, Navy responded in the bottom of the frame with a sacrifice fly by Brandon Beans.
The Mids took the lead in the sixth with the first of three, two-out, RBI hits in the game. With Dave Milanes on third base, Greg Dupell belted a double to the right field corner that plated Milanes and gave Navy a 2-1 lead.
Lafayette brought in reliever Chris Boyce to face the next batter, Nick Driscoll, who made it 3-1 with hard hit single up the middle that scored Dupell.
Frio countered for Lafayette with a one-out RBI single in the top of the seventh to pull the Leopards within one run.
Gainey then replaced Olson and got the final two outs. Gainey took matters into his own hands for the second out of the inning as he tagged out Frio, unassisted, who was attempting to steal third base. He then fanned Scott Kelleher for the final out of the frame.
Leading 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Dupell gave Navy some insurance with his second RBI hit of the game. With Jeff Bland on second via a two-out double, Dupell brought him home in the next at-bat with a single through the right side.
The hit was Dupell's third of the game.
"They pitched him extremely tough and he didn't have a lot of success the first three games," Kostacopoulos said. "For him to regroup and get out there and get three hits was huge."
Gainey faced one over the minimum in the eighth inning and retired the side in the ninth to close the game and pick up his second save of the season.
Shea took the loss for Lafayette as he allowed three runs (two earned) off six hits in five and two-thirds innings.
Olson improved to 5-1 with the win in helping Navy to its first Patriot League regular-season title since 2002.
"It feels great," said Olson. "This is uncharted territory for us, so this is a great feeling."
Game one was tied at one in the bottom of the second inning before Driscoll and Beans both brought in runs to give Navy a 3-1 lead. Driscoll made it 2-1 with an RBI double and later scored when Beans brought him in with a sacrifice fly.
Navy's game one starter Sam Long allowed just one hit through four innings and a pair of errors helped the Leopards tie the game in the top of the fifth. A throwing error by Dupell allowed the first run to score, and later a two-out RBI triple by Froio knotted the game at three.
Lafayette followed in the sixth by scoring what proved to the winning run. With a runner on second base, Matt Fenster sent the ball in the air toward the left side of the infield, just over the reach of Navy shortstop Dylan Wheeler to plate a run and make it 4-3.
Both teams struggled to produce in game one as the two combined for just seven hits. Lafayette starter John Gentile, who picked up the win, allowed only three Navy hits in five and one-third innings.
Navy was limited to no hits and just two base runners over the final five innings.
Long, surrendered just two earned runs off three hits and took the loss.
Tuesday's game at Maryland Eastern Shore has been moved to Sunday, May 8 at 1 p.m., as Navy, now 28-20-1 overall, will return to action on Wednesday at 3 p.m. at Delaware State.
In addition to Navy and Bucknell, this year's Patriot League Tournament will also include No. 2 seed Army and No. 3 seed Lafayette...Navy will be making its first appearance in the postseason tournament since 2008 when it was the No. 2 seed.
Navy has now played in 14 one-run games this season, going 8-6 in those contests ... Seven of Navy's last nine games have been decided by three or fewer runs ... The Mids are 24-4 when holding opponents to five or fewer runs.