Navy and Bucknell Split Doubleheader; Will Play Deciding Game on Sunday
May 14, 2011
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Navy and Bucknell opened play in the Patriot League Tournament semifinals on Saturday at Max Bishop Stadium where the two teams played a total of 25 innings and split a doubleheader in the best-of-three series. Bucknell (25-27) won game one, 1-0, in 16 innings, while Navy (30-22-1) bounced back to win game two, 6-1, to force a decisive game three on Sunday at 12 p.m.
"We've been a resilient team all year," said Navy head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. "It's a great credit to the guys on how they are able to put the first game behind them and then approach a new game."
Saturday's marathon game one was the second longest game in Navy history, topped only by a 17-inning affair in 1949 against Harvard.
Both game one starting pitchers were brilliant, as Bucknell's Ryan Ebner allowed five hits in eight innings, while Navy's Ben Nelson also allowed five hits, but struck out a career-high 11 batters in 10 complete innings. Nelson threw nearly 130 pitches and faced 34 batters.
"That was probably Ben's best effort since he's been here," said Kostacopoulos. "I can't say enough about all our pitchers today."
Navy left a total of 10 runners on base in game one, including stranding runners in scoring position in the first, third, eighth, ninth and 10th innings. Nelson allowed just six Bucknell base runners in 10 innings and the Bison left a total of eight on base in the game.
The Mids' best opportunity to score came in the bottom of the ninth inning. After a leadoff single by Alex Azor ended Ebner's day, Alex Cillo replaced him on the mound to get the first out of the inning in the next at-bat.
Cillo then issued consecutive walks to load the bases with just one out. Greg Dupell had the first crack for Navy with the bases packed, but he hit a groundball to second baseman Scott Glass, who threw out Azor at home for the second out.
Cillo got Nick Driscoll to go down swinging in the next at-bat to send the game to extra frames.
Joel Rinehart took over on the mound for Navy to start the 11th inning and allowed just three base runners (two walks, one hit) through the 15th frame.
After Rinehart retired the first two batters in the top of the 16th, a pair of consecutive two-out hits by the Bison started a rally that led to the winning run.
Bob Donato singled in the next at-bat, scoring Glass for a 1-0 lead and the only run of the day.
Cillo, who threw over 100 pitches in relief, picked up the win by pitching a 1-2-3 bottom of the 16th inning.
Rinehart was also solid in relief, but took the hard-luck loss and is now 2-2.
"The defense was special all day," said Kostacopoulos. "We had opportunities by getting guys in scoring position, but we just weren't able to get them in. We just couldn't quite get a hit, and the more the game extended, the more we pressed."
Game two started similarly to game one, with both starting pitchers - Navy's Sam Long and Bucknell's Dylan Seeley - tossing shutouts through three innings.
Navy finally put up its first run of the day in the top of the fourth with sacrifice fly by Driscoll.
After Bucknell right fielder Gerry Runyan took away a two-run homer from Dupell with a spectacular leaping grab at the wall, Jeff Bland singled and Azor walked to load the bases. Driscoll then drove in the first run of the game with a sacrifice fly to shallow right field.
Long allowed just two hits through four innings, but a pair of walks in the bottom of the fifth helped Bucknell tie the game.
With runners on first and second base, Drew Constable doubled to right center field, scoring Matt Lemore to knot the game at one.
Both pitchers faced the minimum in the sixth and seventh innings, but Navy finally got to Bucknell's pitching staff in the eighth as it pushed across five runs to take a 6-1 lead.
Dan Weigel replaced Seeley and lasted just one batter as he walked Dupell to load the bases.
The next Bison pitcher, Dan Goldstein, gave up an RBI sacrifice fly to Bland to make it a two-run game.
Azor then made it 4-1 in the next at-bat with an RBI single up the middle. Driscoll followed in with an RBI single of his own that scored two runs, with the help of a Bucknell throwing error.
Working with a lead, Long gave up just one hit the rest of the way and was the recipient of solid defense behind him as he picked up the complete-game win to improve to 5-4.
"I felt really good today," Long said. "The defense was unbelievable. With only three strikeouts, our defense was responsible for a lot of outs and they did a great job.
"Going into the game, I realized that it could be my last start. So, I just relaxed and didn't press. That was my main focus - I just let things happen and it was successful."
The two teams will meet on Sunday for the right to face Army in the Patriot League Tournament final series. First pitch is slated for 12 p.m. at Max Bishop Stadium.
- The longest game in Navy history came in 1949 and lasted 17 innings...Harvard defeated Navy, 6-5.
- In holding Bucknell to one run in both games on Saturday, it marked the first time Navy limited the opposition to one or no runs in consecutive games since 2007 with back-to-back wins over Central Connecticut State (1-0) and Monmouth (2-1).
- Bucknell's four hits in game two marked the fewest amount of hits by a Navy opponent in a nine-inning game since March 5 in a 9-2 win over Central Connecticut State.
- Dave Milanes extended his hitting streak to eight games, while Nick Driscoll now has a six-game hitting streak.
- Ben Nelson's 70 strikeouts this season ranks 13th on Navy's single-season strikeout list...it is the most by a Navy pitcher since Oliver Drake had 78 Ks in 2008.