Navy Splits Doubleheader with Holy Cross in PL Semifinals
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Patriot League baseball semifinals got underway Saturday with doubleheader action between the top-seeded Navy Midshipmen and fourth-seeded Holy Cross Crusaders at Terwilliger Brothers Field at Max Bishop Stadium. Pitching controlled the majority of the twinbill as Holy Cross took a 4-2 victory in game one before Navy came back in the second contest and won 4-0 in 10 innings. With the split decision, the Mids (37-14) and Crusaders (18-26) will meet again on Sunday for a winner-take-all game three.
“The first game was a good ball game at 4-2,” remarked head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. “Both teams had opportunities to score a few more runs, but the pitchers pitched out of it. Both teams were looking for those one or two big hits. It was just a well competed all-around game.
“In game two, Sean Kamhoot was the best he’s ever been. He pitched into the ninth inning and shut them out. Jared [Leins] hung in there and got it done at the end. We built one big inning and that was enough to get us the win and allow us to play tomorrow.”
Navy had a quartet of pitchers take the mound on Saturday with Sean Kamhoot (Sr., Gainesville, Fla.), Colin Brady (Sr., Seneca, S.C.) and Jared Leins (Fr., Raleigh, N.C.) all posting zeroes over a combined 13.0 innings. Kamhoot led the way in game two as the senior hurled 8.1 innings of scoreless, nine-hit action with six strikeouts. Leins earned the victory in extra innings with 1.2 innings of hitless relief work in game two. Brady left his mark with 3.0 scoreless frames in Saturday’s first contest. Game one’s starter Noah Song (Jr., Claremont, Calif.) was solid in defeat as he allowed just four hits over 6.0 innings, while allowing four runs (three earned) and striking out seven.
At the plate, Stephen Born (Sr., Strafford, Pa.), Liam Lowery (Jr., Williamsburg, Va.) and Evan Lowery (So., Williamsburg, Va.) led Navy’s offensive attack on Saturday. Born recorded a team-high four hits, including a double and triple. He also was the only Midshipmen with multiple RBIs as he drove in three runs. Liam Lowery collected three hits over the doubleheader, while his younger brother Evan went 2-for-6 with a double, triple and four base on balls for a team-high .600 on-base percentage.
“Born had our best at bats and our best results throughout the day,” said Kostacopoulos. “He was our guy today. I felt Liam Lowery had some good at bats, as did Evan. Moving onto tomorrow, we have to be better at the top of our lineup and make sure he have guys on base to help produce runs.”
Game One: Holy Cross 4 – Navy 2
Song set the tone early for Navy as the junior hurler no-hit Holy Cross over the first three innings as he retired nine of the first 10 Crusader batters he faced. With Holy Cross’ offense stagnant, Navy’s bats had a chance to make a statement as the team had five men on base over the first three innings. Unfortunately for the top-seeded hosts, the Crusaders’ starting pitcher Declan Cronin pitched out of the jams in each stanza.
With the game scoreless going into the fourth inning, Holy Cross’ shortstop Chris Rinaldi immediately left his mark on the game with a leadoff home run in the top of the frame.
Navy didn’t stay down for long as the team had a quick rebuttal in the bottom of the fourth with a single run of its own. With two outs showing on the scoreboard, Evan Lowery started the rally with a double to left-center field. After advancing to third base on an infield single by Alex Smith (So., Stafford, Va.), Michael Coritz (So., Clifton, Va.) drove in Lowery with a single to center field.
Holy Cross nearly retook the lead in the top of the fifth as the fourth-seeded squad loaded the bases with two outs versus Song before the junior navigated his way out of the threat with an infield pop fly.
Both offenses scratched out runs in the sixth with Holy Cross going up 3-1 in the top of the inning before Navy responded with a single tally in the bottom half. The Mids’ second run of the contest came courtesy of an RBI fielder’s choice grounder by Logan Knowles (Sr., Port Orchard, Wash.) that plated Jacob Williamson (So., Sims, N.C.).
With the score 3-2, the Crusaders recorded the game’s final run with an Austin Masel RBI single in the top of the seventh.
Trailing by two runs over the final three regulation innings, Navy went down swinging with two runners on base in the seventh and three on in the bottom of the ninth versus Holy Cross’ closer Danny Barlok, an All-Patriot League First Team reliever. In the ninth, a Christian Hodge (Jr., Winder, Ga.) single and walks to Williamson and Evan Lowery loaded the bases for Smith with two outs. A well-struck ball to left field off the bat of Smith had trouble written all over it with the potential for one or two RBIs was robbed by the Crusaders’ newly-inserted leftfielder David Kale, who dove in for the game-ending put out.
For the game both teams ended with eight hits. Born and Smith each recorded two hits for Navy.
Song took the pitching loss for Navy with a final line of 6.0 innings, four hits, four runs (three earned), five walks and seven strikeouts. Over 13 starts in 2018, Song has totaled 113 strikeouts to tie Mitch Harris’ mark from 2006. All-time in Navy’s single-season record book, he’s tied for the third highest total.
Game Two: Navy 4 – Holy Cross 0 (10 innings)
In game two, the starting pitcher matchup of Kamhoot and Holy Cross’ Pat McGowan was the story as the two hurlers controlled the scoreboard early and often.
Scoreless through two full innings, Navy, the designated visiting team in game two, looked to break through in the top of the third inning as the club loaded the bases with singles by Liam Lowery, Smith and Knowles. McGowan kept the Mids scoreless with an inning-ending double play.
Kamhoot and Navy escaped their own jam in the bottom of the third with an inning-culminating double play by Coritz, Zach Biggers (So., Walhalla, S.C.) and Hodge.
Evan Lowery gave the Mids’ another runner in scoring position in the top of the fourth as the sophomore leftfielder drove a line drive triple to the right-center field gap.
The back-and-forth bend, but not break action continued in the bottom of the fourth when Holy Cross loaded the bases and again in the top of the sixth when Navy’s offense returned the favor. In both cases, pitching and defense won out and the game stayed scoreless.
Kamhoot started controlling the Crusaders with more efficient innings with a run of nine outs over 10 batters in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
With the game still scoreless into the ninth inning, Navy received a single up the middle by Liam Lowery that went for naught before Holy Cross chased Kamhoot with a runner on second base and one out. Ushered in out of the bullpen, Leins escaped the high risk situation with a strikeout and an infield pop out.
In the top of the 10th, Navy’s offense had its first big inning of the day as the Mids batted around with 10 batters accounting for four runs on three hits, two walks and a fielding error. After Coritz led off with walk versus McGowan, the duo of Knowles and Biggers went back-to-back with infield bunt singles to load the bases. Knowing a fly ball to the outfield could set up a sacrifice fly situation, Born did even more than that with a deep fly ball to the warning track for a three-run triple. He came into score in the ensuing at bat as a ground ball off the bat of Hodge was misplayed for run-scoring fielding error.
Fronted a 4-0 lead going into the bottom of the 10thinning, Leins closed out the victory with a strikeout and two pop outs that didn’t leave the infield.
For the game, Navy outhit Holy Cross, 10-9. Knowles, Born and Liam Lowery all had two hits for the Mids in the victory.
Kamhoot received a no-decision for his 8.1-inning effort. The Florida native scattered nine hits over his scoreless outing with two walks and six strikeouts over 99 pitches.
Leins earned his fifth victory of 2018 with a final line of 1.2 innings, no hits, two walks and three strikeouts.
The shutout is the seventh of the season for Navy. All-time, that’s the third-best mark in program history for a single-season.
“The second game was really a grind,” said Kostacopoulos. “We had to overcome the frustration of leaving some guys on base. We had opportunities and we started to feel that maybe it might just not be our day, but we kept putting in the work. That shows the character of this team that we battled to the end and came away with a win.
“Tomorrow is a must-win scenario, but it’s the same scenario for both teams now. We have to come out with a good start and play the kind of good Navy baseball that I know we’re capable of.”
Navy and Holy Cross will conclude their three-game semifinal series on Sunday with a 1 p.m. tilt at Max Bishop Stadium.
On the opposite side of the Patriot League semifinal bracket, No. 2 Army and No. 3 Bucknell split a Saturday doubleheader at West Point with the Bison winning game one, 4-1 before the Black Knights came back in the second contest with an 11-7 victory.