Navy Baseball Wins Patriot League Regular Season Title with DH Split at Bucknell
LEWISBURG, Pa. – The Navy baseball team earned its second straight Patriot League regular season title with a doubleheader split on the road at Bucknell on Sunday. With a win in game one over the Bison (17-32, 8-12 PL) by a score of 15-0 and a split between Holy Cross and Lafayette, the Midshipmen (37-12-1, 15-5 PL) finished the regular season atop the Patriot League standings. With a postseason berth on the line for the Bison in game two, the host squad pulled out a 6-4 victory at Depew Field.
“All facets were working for us in game one,” remarked head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. “Our offense was clicking and produced runs in bunches and our pitching staff was very solid. The second game was a good baseball game. They got a couple timely hits to get them the victory. Overall, it was a really good game.
“For us to win three out of four games is always our focus so we did a solid job in reaching that goal.”
In a day when the Mids scored 19 runs and combined for 24 hits over the doubleheader, the trio of Robert Currie (Sr., Atlanta, Ga.), Logan Knowles (So., Port Orchard, Wash.) and Travis Blue (Jr., Orange, Calif.) led a well-rounded Navy offensive attack. Currie and Knowles both went 4-for-8 with three RBIs, while Blue was 3-for-7 with a team-high four RBIs on Sunday.
“Robert continues to keep doing what he does,” said Kostacopoulos. “He was the guy that was around our offense all day. He is so consistent in making things happen. I also thought Logan had a really good day and a really strong weekend. All of his at bats were quality and he got some big hits for us. Even when he didn’t get a hit, he was moving runners and getting positive results for us.”
On the mound, a combined shutout by Noah Song (Fr., Claremont, Calif.) and Jackson Zoch (Fr., San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) in game one led Navy’s pitching effort. In the second contest, Sam Sorenson (Sr., Etters, Pa.) threw 3.1 innings of one-run relief.
“It was a little harder for Noah today and he struggled a bit to find the strike zone,” said Kostacopoulos. “As he gains experience he’s learning how to battle and how to pitch when he doesn’t necessarily have his best stuff. I thought that was important for him today.”
In the first game on Sunday, Navy got on the scoreboard early as Currie and Stephen Born (So., Strafford, Pa.) each recorded hits off of Bucknell starting pitcher Dan Keller in the top of the first inning. With runners on first and second and two outs, Connor Deneen (Sr., Tustin, Calif.) stroked a single to right field to plate Currie.
The Mids extended their lead out to 3-0 in the next inning as back-to-back walks to Matthew Wilcox (Fr., Los Gatos, Calif.) and Knowles eventually turned into runs courtesy of an RBI single by Currie and a sacrifice fly by Blue.
Song and Navy’s defense kept the game at 3-0 margin in the bottom of the second as Deneen started the frame with a web gem-worthy sprint to the right-center field gap and leap into the wall as he caught a deep fly ball off the bat of Sam Clark. Song added a two-out strikeout to advance the contest into the third.
The Mids kept their foot on the proverbial gas pedal with another run in the top of third inning as Leland Saile (Jr., Land O’Lakes, Fla.) got ahold of a Keller pitch and deposited it over the left field wall with a hard-hit smash. The solo home run was the second long ball in as many days for the junior first baseman.
After scoreless third and fourth innings for the host Bison, the Mids blew open the game in the top of the fifth when they sent 11 men to the plate. Knowles got the scoring going with an RBI double down the right field line. The scoring run continued with single RBIs by Currie, Blue, Born and Sean Trent (Sr., Sorrento, Fla.). Trent’s RBI came after the senior left-fielder roped a triple to the right-center field gap. The sixth and final run of the inning came into score on a wild pitch by Bucknell reliever Max Kra.
Up 10-0, Song closed out his final two innings on the mound with three strikeouts over the fifth and sixth frames.
Navy put another five runs on the scoreboard in the top of the seventh to cap the game’s scoring at 15-0. Again the Mids’ attack was well-rounded as five different players recorded RBIs. Blue drove in the first run before Christian Hodge (Fr., Winder, Ga.), Trent, Deneen and Ben Lowe (So., Memphis, Tenn.) all added single tallies.
Zoch closed out the game for Navy with a 12-pitch bottom of the seventh inning. The freshman reliever struck out two Bucknell batters in his outing.
For the game, Navy outhit Bucknell, 17-3. 11 different Midshipmen recorded hits with Currie (4) leading a quartet of players with multiple hits. Born (2), Trent (2) and Knowles (2) rounded out the group.
Song earned his seventh victory of the 2016 season with a final line of 6.0 innings, three hits, five walks and six strikeouts.
A strong band of rain showers came through Lewisburg in between the games and the second contest was delayed over an hour and a half until 4:10 p.m. During the delay, the Midshipmen paid close attention to the happenings in Worcester, Mass. and saw that Lafayette was able to pull out a 4-2 victory over Holy Cross. With the loss by the Crusaders, the Mids were locked into the top spot in the Patriot League with 15 conference wins. Holy Cross finished the regular season at 14-6.
Once the action finally got going in game two starting pitching ruled the early innings as both Kyle Condry (Jr., Highland Village, Texas) for Navy and Jeff Gottesman for Bucknell hurled four shutout frames.
With the score 0-0 going into the fifth, the Mids’ offense finally found its footing. Deneen got the rally started with a leadoff single through the right side of the infield. After an 11-pitch walk to Saile, Knowles plated both of his teammates with a single to right field. Nick Paglialonga (Jr., Lake Forest, Calif.) score Navy’s final run of the inning on an RBI single by Blue.
The 3-0 advantage for the Mids was short-lived as the Bison came back in the bottom of the fifth with five runs of their own.
The game stayed at a 5-3 margin into the seventh when Navy tightened it up to one run when a leadoff walk to Wilcox turned into a score via a sacrifice fly by Currie.
In relief, Sorenson kept the Mids within striking distance with scoreless sixth and seventh innings. In the seventh, the senior right-hander pitched around a bases loaded, one-out situation with a strike out and ground out.
A solo home run by Bucknell’s Joe Ogren closed out the scoring in the eighth inning to make it 6-4.
In its final at bat, Navy attempted a comeback as Paglialonga and Knowles went back-to-back with two-out singles. Bucknell’s closer Danny Rafferty ended the threat and clinched the victory for the Bison. The win allowed Bucknell to overtake Lafayette for the fourth and final spot in the Patriot League postseason tournament.
For the game, Navy was outhit by Bucknell, 11-7. Blue and Knowles both had two hits to lead the Mids.
Condry took the loss for Navy with a final line of 4.1 innings, six hits, three walks and one strikeout. He was charged with five runs allowed (four earned).
At the completion of the day’s action, Navy finished the Patriot League regular season with a record of 15-5. Holy Cross ended up second at 14-6, while Lehigh wrapped up its campaign at 9-10. At 8-12, Bucknell finished fourth, one game ahead of 7-13 Lafayette. Army West Point finished the year with a record of 6-13. This is the second straight title for the Mids and ninth overall.
“Winning the league title is something that the team can hang its hat on,” said Kostacopoulos. “Its always something that we aspire to achieve because it’s a long season goal. I’m happy for the team because this is a great accomplishment.”
Navy will step away from the field this week to focus on final exams before competing in a non-conference tune-up versus Chestnutt Hill College on Sunday, May 8. The Mids and Griffins are scheduled to play at Max Bishop Stadium beginning at 12 p.m.
Postseason play for Navy will start on the weekend of May 14-15 with semifinal action against this same Bucknell squad at home.