Navy's Baseball Season Concludes in Patriot League Semifinals
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Navy baseball team conclude its 2017 season on Sunday afternoon at Terwilliger Brothers Field at Max Bishop Stadium with a 5-0 loss to Bucknell in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament. The Mids (37-17) fell victim for the second straight day to a dominant complete game pitching performance by a Bison (21-26) hurler as LHP Mike Castellani shut out the top-seeded Navy squad with a three-hitter on Sunday.
In his final collegiate start, RHP Kyle Condry (Sr., Highland Village, Texas) gave the Mids a game and competitive outing as he pitched around lead off base runners in four of his six innings on the mound and gave up just two total runs. Condry’s final line on Sunday was 5.2 innings, seven hits, two walks, two runs and four strikeouts over 110 pitches.
Offensively, the Mids’ potent regular season attack was subdued by Castellani as Jacob Williamson (Fr., Sims, N.C.) led the way with a seventh-inning double. Leland Saile (Sr., Land O’Lakes, Fla.) and Zach Biggers (Fr., Walhalla, S.C.) also contributed singles on the day.
“Today was kind of a repeat from yesterday,” remarked head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. “I thought we got good starting pitching once again as Kyle threw well, but unfortunately our bats were really silent and just couldn’t generate any offense. As much as our pitching staff tried to hang in there we just weren’t able to get any momentum and opportunities for runs.
“Everything seemed to be working for Castellani today. He threw that 3-2 breaking ball a bunch of times and had a good changeup. He kept us off-balance all day. He threw really well, but at the same time our bats were about as cool as they’ve been all season.”
The action on Sunday began slow for Navy, who was designated as the visiting team for the game, as the Mids went three-up, three-down in the top of the first inning.
Unlike yesterday where shutout action played out into the seventh inning, Bucknell pounced on Condry and Navy early with a leadoff double by All-Patriot League first-teamer Brett Smith. After a groundout advanced Smith to third, another all-league first-teamer Sam Clark came through with a sacrifice fly to left field to make it 1-0 in favor of the Bison.
The fourth-seeded team kept the pressure on Navy over the next three innings as they constantly were in search of a second run. Condry was able to pitch around a leadoff single by the Bison in the second with two straight fly outs and a strike out swinging by Tyler Wincig. In the third, a leadoff walk to Chuckie Scales proved problematic for Navy as Bucknell’s right-fielder went station-to-station before Clark came through with his second RBI of the game with a single to center field. A leadoff double by JohnPaul Bell in the fourth amounted to zero runs on the scoreboard as Condry struck out two Bison batters and forced a third into a fly out.
Down 2-0 after four full innings, Navy looked to break through in the hit column versus Castellani after the senior lefty had opened the game with 12 putouts over 12 batters faced. In the top of the fifth, Saile broke up the no-hitter with a base hit to center field. The senior was quickly erased as Bucknell’s defense turned a double play during the next at bat.
After Condry pitched out of a two-on, two-out jam in the bottom of the fifth with a strike out, Navy had a chance in the top of the sixth to cut into Bucknell’s 2-0 lead when it loaded the bases with two walks and a single by Biggers. Unfortunately, the Mids’ comeback threat went for naught as Castellani forced a groundout to end the frame.
“That was one of those spots where we had a chance to climb back into it, but at the same time we really only had one chance because we loaded the bases with two outs,” said Kostacopoulos. “It never really felt like a threat because it was walks that set up that situation and we hadn’t shown that we could string together a couple of hits.”
The Bison put the pressure on for their third run of the game in the bottom half of the six with two two-out baserunners, but Brian Wikoff (Sr., Shrewsbury, N.J.) came out of the bullpen and forced Scales into a groundout to Travis Blue (Sr., Orange, Calif.) at shortstop.
The Mids last chance to break through versus Castellani and the Bison came in the top of the seventh when Williamson stroked a double to the left-center field gap with two outs. A fly out in the ensuing at bat ended the frame. Williamson’s hit was the final for Navy in the game as the team was retired seven-up, seven-down to close the contest.
Bucknell added three insurance runs over the seventh and eighth innings to wrap up the scoring at a 5-0 final margin.
Castellani earned the win for Bucknell to improve to 5-1 on the season. The senior southpaw struck out six and scattered three hits and two walks over 114 pitches in the complete game effort.
Condry took the loss for Navy to drop his season record to 7-2. The 2017 Patriot League Pitcher of the Year concluded his senior campaign with a 2.89 ERA and 61 strikeouts over 71.2 innings pitched. After a rocky first two starts to begin 2017, Condry appeared in 10 games and never allowed more than two earned runs for the Mids over the final two months of the season.
Navy concludes its 2017 season with a 37-17 record. That win total is tied with the 2015 team for second-most in program history. The Mids’ 2016 team is atop the record books with 43 victories. Over the last three years, Navy has compiled a 117-51-1 record for a .695 winning percentage.
“The last game is sometimes a hard time to assess the overall impact of a season because the finality is so fresh, but to win the league’s regular season title is hard to do and only one team does it every year,” exclaimed Kostacopoulos. “I think that’s the best way to summarize the kind of year that we had. You can look at the consistency over our last three seasons. Every weekend we came out and performed at a competitive, high level. That’s the mark of a good team. Winning the Patriot League regular season for three straight years is a tremendous accomplishment. Unfortunately, it did not go well for us this weekend; there’s no doubt about that.”
Navy’s eight-man Class of 2017 will graduate later this month and take with them a program-record 140 wins, four Patriot League postseason appearances, three Patriot League regular season titles, one Patriot League postseason championship (2016) and one NCAA Tournament victory (2016 over Saint Mary’s in the Raleigh Regional.). The program will bid farewell to SS Travis Blue, C Adrian Chinnery, RHP Kyle Condry, RHP George Coughlin, RHP Jett Meenach, RF Leland Saile, LHP Brian Wikoff and student assistant coach Adam Johnson.
“The one thing that stands out about this senior class is their growth,” remarked Kostacopoulos. “They all grew as players, as people and as Midshipmen. It’s hard to be a varsity athlete here. Baseball has a unique component in the fact that it’s so time consuming. This is a seven-day-a-week commitment because they’re playing three or four games a weekend and after that final pitch on Sunday night they flip that switch to restart their week. It’s very hard to get a break with one’s time and I have a ton of respect for the athletes in general here and for the players in the sport of baseball here because of that. They have to keep going and keep going and I think our seniors did a great job of managing that and being consistent over their four years.
“The numbers on the field speak for themselves. We had some pretty unique and very successful players here and we will sorely miss them. They are players that we can be proud of. At the end of the day, unless you win the national championship your season is going to end. It ended for us a lot sooner than we would have wanted it to this year and that’s disappointing, but as a whole we accomplished a lot and they did everything I wanted them to do and they demanded a lot of themselves.”
The Patriot League postseason tournament will continue next weekend in Worcester, Mass. as the second-seeded Holy Cross Crusaders will host the fourth-seeded Bison in a best-of-three championship series.