Navy's Season Ends with 8-7 Loss to Bucknell
May 17, 2008
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The Navy baseball team saw its season come to an end with an 8-7 loss to Bucknell in the Patriot League Championship series on Saturday afternoon at Terwilliger Brothers Field at Max Bishop Stadium. The Midshipmen dropped to 32-25-1, while the Bison won their fourth league title and improved to 26-22-2 on the year.
For the second-straight day, Navy could not hold onto a five-run lead in the late innings. The Midshipmen held a 7-2 advantage after five and a half innings, but Bucknell once again came back with six unanswered runs.
"Today was similar to yesterday in the fact that they swung the bats," stated Navy head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. "They were able to bunch some hits together and score some runs. We did not give anything to them. They certainly earned what they got."
Jason Buursma, the Patriot League Tournament MVP, led off the sixth with a home run and the Bison scored again in the frame to pull within three at 7-4. Two innings later, Shawn Hirsch smacked a two-run double off the fence in right-center and would come home on a sacrifice fly to knot the game at seven.
In the bottom of the ninth, Buursma led off with a single to left and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Navy reliever JD Melton (So./Myrtle Beach, S.C.) came in and a got a lineout for the second out of the inning. After an intentional walk, Ed Rubbo lined a single to right and Buursma rounded third for a play at the plate. Michael Speciale (So./Pearland, Texas) came up with a direct throw home, but Buursma was able to beat the tag at the plate for the championship-ending run.
Navy held a 4-0 lead going into the bottom half of the fourth. Speciale blasted his 10th home run of the year, a two-run shot to center, to give the Mids a 2-0 lead in the first. Speciale became just the third player in school history to belt 10-plus round-trippers in a season. One inning later, Steven Soares (So./Coral Springs, Fla.) drew a one-out walk, advanced to third on a single and scored on a sacrifice fly. In the fourth, Kendall Bolt (So./Stockton, Calif.) led off with a walk, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a groundout.
After Bucknell got on the board with two in the fourth, Navy answered for two in the fifth and one in the sixth. In the fifth, Renaldo Hollins (Sr./Virginia Beach, Va.) drew a leadoff walk and would eventually score on a Speciale sacrifice fly to left. Jonathan Wright (Fr./Arden, N.C.) delivered a RBI-single with two outs for the second run of the stanza.
One inning later, Hollins doubled to right and would score on a Thomas Hamilton (Sr./Houston, Texas) single to center. That base knock was his 89th of the year, breaking the single-season Patriot League record of 88 hits by Lehigh's Matt McBride in 2006. Hamilton would finish the year with a .403 batting average, the 10th-highest mark in program history.
"Thomas really played great, especially over the last-five weeks," said Kostacopoulos. "You cannot amass that many hits in a season and go through any stretch being unproductive at the plate. He has been consistent and contributed to the team all year."
Navy starter Mitch Harris (Sr./Mt. Holly, N.C.) went five innings and allowed four runs on six hits with three walks and six strikeouts. The Navy right-hander finished his career with 291 strikeouts, the second-highest total in school history.
"Mitch had a gutsy performance out there and left with a 7-3 lead and a runner on first," stated Kostacopoulos. "It was certainly a good enough start for him to earn the win. He gave us all that he had, which is all that you can ask for."
Mark McCoy (Sr./Parkland, Fla.) came on in relief of Harris and was tagged for the loss. He yielded four runs on five hits with two walks and no strikeouts over 3.1 innings of work. He finished his season with a 6-5 record.
"Looking at our bullpen at that time, he was certainly the best guy we had available," said Kostacopoulos. "He has gone out and pitched a ton of innings this year and in his four-year career. However, (Bucknell) was just able to get to him today."
Hamilton and Bland each went 2-for-4 for the Midshipmen, who were out-hit by the Bison, 12-7, on Saturday.
Hamilton hit .550 (11-for-20) during the Patriot League Tournament with two doubles and four RBIs to join Bolt and Oliver Drake (So./Gardner, Mass.) on the all-tournament team. Bolt batted .500 (10-for-20) over the last-two weekends with seven RBIs and Drake went 1-0 with a 2.63 ERA over 13.2 innings with only one walk and 16 strikeouts.
Navy finished the 2008 season by setting school records for the most wins over a four-year (111), three-year (99) and two-year span (67).
"We need to remember where we have come from three years ago," stated Kostacopoulos. "This senior class has moved us forward every year and that's very important. They have led us to become a competitive Division I program. As disappointing as it is to lose two one-run games in the finals, (the seniors) need to step back and see where we have gone in three short years. It's a tribute to our seniors, not just from a statistical standpoint, but they have paved the way for a better future for us. I will always remember them for this.
"We have a solid nucleus of returners coming back for next season - with four everyday position players and some freshman that got significant quality time this spring. There are a lot of guys that have played for us that will certainly have a future."