Navy Earns First NCAA Baseball Win Since 2002
RALEIGH, N.C. - The Navy baseball team won its first NCAA Championship regional game since 2002 with a thrilling 8-5 extra inning victory over Saint Mary's on Saturday. In the first elimination game of the Raleigh Regional, the Mids (43-15-1) battled for 13 innings with the Gaels (33-25) until Travis Blue (Jr., Orange, Calif.) and Sean Trent (Sr., Sorrento, Fla.) drove in three runs in the 13th. The fourth-seeded Navy squad got 8.1 innings of gutsy relief pitching from Sam Sorenson (Sr., Etters, Pa.) and Andrew Sauer (Fr., Johns Creek, Ga.) to hold the third-seeded Saint Mary's team to just six hits and one earned run down the stretch.
"What a phenomenal game with two teams who refused to lose," remarked head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. "It was a battle. It was calculated that the team has spent 17 of the past 26 hours out on this field (due to Friday's weather delay). We are very proud of the team and all that they have accomplished and also very happy with the effort put in today. We know we have another day to play and that is very important to this team.
"There were two sides to the game because early on they had much better opportunities to stretch the game out from a one-run game to maybe a two-, three- or four-run lead. I thought in the latter part of the game, we had the better chances. We just couldn't get the big one over the late innings until Travis came through and then Sean capped it off with two more RBIs."
On the mound, Sorenson came in during the fifth inning and threw 6.1 innings of three-hit, two-run relief. In his career-long outing, the senior right-hander tossed 95 pitches. Prior to Saturday, Sorenson had never thrown more than 4.1 innings. Sauer came in after Sorenson and threw the final 2.0 innings with four strikeouts.
"I thought the two key people today were Sam Sorenson, who was outstanding and keeping us in it and Andrew Sauer, who for a young pitcher came in during a high pressure situation and really handled himself well," said Kostacopoulos.
Offensively, Trent, Leland Saile (Jr., Land O'Lakes, Fla.) and Logan Knowles (So., Port Orchard, Wash.) all registered three hits with two RBIs. Saile connected for a second-inning two-run home run for his fifth long ball since April 30.
After wrapping up their opening game with North Carolina State at 1:36 a.m. and arriving back at their team hotel at 2:30 Saturday morning, Navy turned around and were back at Dail Park at Doak Field at 11:30 a.m. for batting practice. The potential for a physical and mental let-down was very possible for the Mids and the Gaels took advantage of inconsistent Navy play early on with a run on two hits in the bottom of the first.
Down 1-0, the Mids responded right back in the top of the second with a leadoff double by Trent and a two-run home run by Saile.
The back-and-forth action continued into the bottom of the third as Saint Mary's came back with two runs on a Jackson Thoreson single.
With the score 3-2 in favor of the Gaels, Adrian Chinnery (Jr., Wilmington, Del.) evened up the contest in the top of the fourth as he drove in Trent on a fielder's choice ground ball.
Singles by Saile and Chinnery in the top of the sixth and a walk to Matthew Wilcox (Fr., Los Gatos, Calif.) loaded the bases for Knowles, who singled up the middle to score two and put Navy up 5-3.
Saint Mary's slowly chipped away at Navy's two-run advantage with single runs in the bottom of the seventh and eighth innings.
The game moved into the ninth and the Mids challenged with a bases loaded, no-out situation, but the Gaels' David Dellaserra got two outs before Bryce Reichmann, the next Saint Mary's reliever, recorded a final strikeout to leave it at 5-5.
Sorenson made sure that the action would go into extra innings as he forced Nate Nolan into a weak foul pop out before striking out Logan Steinberg and Brett Rasso in back-to-back at bats.
The right-handed reliever put it into overdrive as he retired Saint Mary's three-up, three-down in the 10th and recorded three more putouts in the bottom of the 11th.
One night after hurling a scoreless frame versus North Carolina State, Sauer was summoned from the bullpen and turned in another scoreless outing versus a top-notch national team as he set the Gaels down in order in the 12th.
Six innings from its last scoring opportunity, the Mids finally had an answer for the Gaels' pitching staff as Knowles led off with a single through the right side. After Robert Currie (Sr., Atlanta, Ga.) sacrificed Knowles over to second base, Blue ended the scoring drought with a hard-hit double to the right-center field gap. Two batters later, Trent drove in Blue and Stephen Born (So., Strafford, Pa.) to make it 8-5.
Up three runs, Sauer closed out the win with strikeouts of Anthony Gonsolin, Nate Nolan and Conor Thane in the bottom of the 13th.
In the 8-5 win, Navy outhit Saint Mary's, 14-11. Trent (3), Saile (3), Knowles (3) and Chinnery (2) recorded 11 of the Mids' hits.
Noah Song (Fr., Claremont, Calif.) started and went 2.1 innings with three hits, two walks and three runs allowed in his no-decision. Kyle Condry (Jr., Highland Village, Texas) replaced him and went 2.1 scoreless innings with two hits and five walks.
Sauer earned his first career victory, while Saint Mary's Nathan Simmons took the loss.
"The last 24 hours are something I've never experienced before with spending so much time at the ballpark and then taking on some really high-quality teams in pretty tough conditions with it being 90-95 degrees and getting home at 2:30 last night," said Kostacopoulos. "A benchmark of any good team is that they don't let those thing bother them and the second benchmark is that they enjoy playing."
With the victory, Navy advances to the regional's second elimination on Sunday. The Mids will play the loser of tonight's North Carolina State-Coastal Carolina game.
All-Time NCAA Tournament Wins for Navy
1948 - W, 3-2 (11) versus Rutgers - District II Playoffs (Easton, Pa.)
1982 - W, 15-5 versus Seton Hall - Northeast Regional (Orono, Maine)
1982 - W, 3-1 versus Delaware - Northeast Regional (Orono, Maine)
2002 - W, 6-4 versus George Washington - Winston-Salem Regional (Winston-Salem, N.C.)
2016 - W, 8-5 (13) versus Saint Mary's - Raleigh Regional (Raleigh, N.C.)