Army and Navy Split Doubleheader; Championship Game at 1 p.m. on Tuesday
May 23, 2011
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - With Army and Navy splitting a doubleheader on Monday at Max Bishop Stadium, the Patriot League Baseball Championship, and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, will now be decided on Tuesday. Navy won game one, 4-3, while Army took game two, 6-3, to force the decisive contest on Tuesday. First pitch in the best-of-three series finale is slated for 1 p.m.
Navy took game one behind another strong outing from starting pitcher Ben Nelson. Nelson allowed three runs (two earned) in eight and one-third innings to earn the win and improve to 6-5. He also racked up seven strikeouts.
"Ben was phenomenal today," said Navy head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. "His last two outings have been just great and have he's given us a great chance to win. He did a tremendous job."
In a combined 18.1 innings in his last two starts, Nelson has a total of 18 strikeouts and just three walks.
Navy (32-23-1) started game one by taking advantage of three consecutive walks by Army starting pitcher Logan Lee to take a 2-0 lead. With two runners on and two outs, Lee walked Greg Dupell, Nick Driscoll and Andrew Hahn to put the Mids ahead.
Nelson struck out the side the first inning, retired the next six Black Knights, and allowed his first hit of the day with two outs in the fourth. The sophomore gave up one more hit through the eighth inning, facing just one batter over the minimum.
Navy extended its lead to 4-0 in the seventh when Driscoll hit a two-out RBI single. With Azor on second and Dupell on first, Driscoll sent a 1-1 pitch to right field to score Azor and bring in what proved to be the winning run.
In the ninth, Army leadoff hitter Zach Price singled though the left side, and two batters later with one out, Nelson walked Clint Moore, giving Army two base runners for just the second time in the game.
The next batter, Joey Henshaw, delivered a double to right center field to score Price and make it 4-1.
Preston Gainey took over for Nelson to face the next batter, Steve May, who reached on an error by Navy first baseman Kash Manzelli. Manzelli's mishandle allowed both Moore and Henshaw to score and make it a one-run game.
With May on second, Gainey refocused to strikeout the next batter, JT Watkins. After a walk to Sean McIlroy, Gainey got Brent Peterson to pop out to second base and end the game.
The save was Gainey's fourth of the season and second against the Black Knights.
Lee, who pitched seven complete innings, took the loss to fall to 4-9.
Like Navy in game one, Army was able to get off to a quick start in the second game as it scored twice in the first inning with a pair of RBI singles.
"The two games where really both sides of the coin," said Kostacopoulos. "We got some runs early in game one and they did the same in game two."
Navy responded right away though in the top of the second inning when Andrew Hahn hit a two-run homer to right center field - knotting the game at two. Hahn followed Driscoll, who reached on a two-out single, with his third home run of the season.
Navy starting pitcher Sam Long sent the Black Knights down in order in the second, but got back into trouble in the third. With one out and two runners on via back-to-back singles, Henshaw homered to right center to reclaim the lead for Army, 5-2.
But the Mids bounced back again in the top of the fourth courtesy of Hahn, who went 3-for-4 in game two.
With two outs and Dupell and Jeff Bland on base, Hahn singled to right field to score Dupell, cutting the deficit to two runs.
"Andrew did a great job," said Kostacopoulos. "All year long we've been able to go to different people and he did the job today."
Starting pitcher Chris Rowley held Navy scoreless over the next three innings, allowing Henshaw to increase the Army lead to 6-3 with a solo shot in the bottom of the seventh.
The Black Knights' Gunnar Carroll and Ben Koenigsfeld came on in relief to hold Navy to just one hit over the final two innings, giving Army (22-25) a 6-3 win and ensuring a decisive game three on Tuesday.
Long went six and two-thirds innings and was tagged with the loss in game two. Army's Rowley improved to 5-4 with the victory.
"It's one game for the season now," said Kostacopoulos. "Give Army credit in the second game today - they played very well defensively."
With ongoing Commissioning Week activities at the Naval Academy, fans attending Tuesday's game are again encouraged to park at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and ride the free shuttle to Max Bishop Stadium.
Sam Long struck out four in game two and now has 188 career strikeouts - the seventh most in Navy history.
With seven Ks in game one, Ben Nelson now has 77 this season and moved into 11th place on the Navy single-season strikeout list...Nelson now also ranks in a tie for third on the single-season starts list with 15.
Navy improved to 28-5 when holding opponents to five or fewer runs.
Brandon Beans tripled in game one, giving Navy 23 triples this season, which is the fifth-highest single-season total in program history.
Andrew Hahn tied his career high with three RBIs in game two.