Baseball Hosts Army in Patriot League Opener
Sophomore Kash Manzelli
March 30, 2012
The Midshipmen and Black Knights will resume their rivalry on the diamond this weekend when the service academies meet in a four-game set in Annapolis. It marks the first time the teams will open conference play against each other since 2003.
Due to limited parking at Max Bishop Stadium, fans are encouraged to park at Navy-Marine Crops Memorial Stadium and take the shuttle to the ballpark. Admission is free to all Navy baseball games.
Determining the "Star" Winner
The winner of the four-game Army-Navy series will claim the coveted "Star". If the series ends in a tie at two games apiece, the winner of the first game of the series will be awarded the Star.
Navy in Patriot League Openers
Navy is 13-6 all-time in Patriot League-opening games and has a 55-17 mark in conference-opening sets. Navy last opened Patriot League play against Army in 2003 when it won three of four games, including the opener, 5-4, at West Point. The last time Navy opened conference play by hosting Army was in 2002 when the Mids took three of four games and won the opener, 6-4.
Army and Navy share a pair of non-conference common opponents in UMBC and Illinois State. Both teams took two of three games from UMBC, while Navy fell to Illinois State, 6-5, and Army dropped a doubleheader to the Redbirds, 7-5 and 6-5.
With 13 triples entering this week, Navy ranked fifth in the nation when statistics were released on Monday. The Mids' average of 0.59 triples per game is sixth highest in the country. Greg Dupell, Chance Jones and Nikolai Simonsen lead Navy with three triples apiece.
Last year Navy belted 23 triples, which was the 18th-highest total in the country.
Kostacopoulos Approaching Win No. 700
Head coach Paul Kostacopoulos is now three wins shy of 700 for his career. In his 23rd season as a head coach and seventh at Navy, Kostacopoulos has a career record of 697-482-6 and has more career wins than any other current head coach in the Patriot League. Entering 2012, he was 36th on the NCAA Division I Winningest Active Coaches list as ranked by victories.
Sophomores Brandon Beans (23 hits), Chance Jones (21 hits), Kash Manzelli (21 hits) and Nikolai Simonsen (22 hits) have all had breakout campaigns as the four players have combined for 41% of the Mids' total hits this season. Beans (43 starts) and Manzelli (15 starts) were the only two rookies to start more than six games last season, while Jones did not see any action and Simonsen had just three at-bats.
Beans, who has started all 18 games in which he has appeared, ranks second on the team in hits and has reached base safely in 13 consecutive games heading into play this weekend.
Jones leads the Mids with 24 RBIs off a total of 21 hits this season. The native of St. George, Utah, has started 18 games and enters the series with a five-game hitting streak. He also has a team-high eight multiple-RBI games this season.
In starting each game (14) since March 4, Simonsen has hit .364 and reached base safely in all but two contests. Simonsen had a career-best three hits against UMBC (Mar. 11), Bradley (Mar. 15) and Northwestern (Mar. 17).
Manzelli has started all but one game at first base and had a hit in eight of the first 10 games this season.
The Captain is Back & Climbing Navy's All-Time Hits Chart
Alex Azor returned to the Navy lineup on March 14 after missing 11 games due to injury and made his presence known immediately as he tripled in his first at-bat against Eastern Illinois. The senior has reached base safely in all eight games in which he has played since returning and is 12-for-33 (.363) during the stretch.
With a season-high four hits in the 7-5 win over Princeton last weekend, Azor now has a career-total of 174, which is one shy of moving into a tie with Mitch Harris (2005-08) for 11th place on Navy's all-time hits list. Azor needs just four hits to move into Navy's all-time top-10.
Pitching Staff Continues to Rack Up Ks
When NCAA statistics were released on Monday, the Navy pitching staff was tops in the Patriot League in strikeouts per nine innings with an average of 8.3. As a team, the Mids have a total of 180 Ks and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.1-1.
Navy set a program record with 423 strikeouts in 2011 and had a total of 167 Ks through 23 games last season.
Rinehart Gets it Done
After picking up a safe in two innings of work against Georgetown on Wednesday, junior reliever Joel Rinehart moved into a tie for second place on Navy's all-time saves list with 11. With four wins and two saves this season, Rinehart has been the Mids' most valuable arm out of the bullpen in 2012. Rinehart picked up both of Navy's wins in the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational as against Eastern Illinois, he pitched the final three and two-thirds innings, allowing one run off one hit and didn't issue a walk. In pitching the final two innings against Northwestern, Rinehart blanked the Wildcats, setting up the Mids walk-off victory in the bottom of the ninth.
In nine appearances totaling 16.2 innings, opponents are hitting just .200 off Rinehart. The native of Kingwood, Texas, has a 2.16 ERA with 21 strikeouts and just five walks.
Dupell Gets Rolling
After getting off to a slow start, junior third baseman Greg Dupell has come alive over the past 12 games as he has hit .422 (19-for-45) and driven in 13 runs over the span. Dupell has a hit in 10 of the last 12 games and has reached base safely in five consecutive contests entering play this weekend.
Playing less than an hour from his home in Tampa, Fla., Dupell provided the game-winning RBIs in both Navy wins at RussMatt Central Florida Invitational. Against Eastern Illinois, Dupell hit a three-RBI triple in the bottom of the seventh inning to break a 6-6 tie, while against Northwestern, his sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth gave Navy its second walk-off win of the year.
Last season, Dupell earned second-team All-Patriot League honors as he tied Alex Azor for second in the conference in hits (69). His 35 RBIs ranked seventh in the league.
Jones Drives `Em In
Sophomore Chance Jones enters the weekend with a Patriot League-leading 24 RBIs. In 18 starting assignments, 10 of which have come behind the plate, Jones is hitting .309 with nine extra-base hits.
Jones got off to a hot start as he had at least two RBIs in each of his first five starts of the season and now has eight-multi RBI games. He homered in both games of a doubleheader against Air Force on Feb. 25 and drove in a career-best four runs in game one.
Young Players Stepping In
Navy received significant contributions from its underclassmen a season ago and 23 games into the 2012 season, the freshmen and sophomores have again been called into action. Navy's lineup has featured no fewer than a total of five freshmen and sophomores in 21 of 23 games this season. The five combined freshmen and sophomores that have started at least 12 games this season (Simonsen, Jones, Manzelli, Beans and Wiedeman) have contributed 49% of the team's hits.
Last season, at total of 12 freshmen and sophomores combined for over 60% of the Mids' RBIs and over 50% of the team's hits.
Beans Stays Hot
After beginning the season with just two hits in five games, Brandon Beans enters this weekend with a batting average of .311 and has reached base safely in 13 consecutive games. He capped an eight-game hitting streak with a career-best four hits against Bradley and had a career-high three RBIs in a 3-for-5 performance against UMBC on March 10.
Dupell is Navy's Current Iron Man
With Alex Azor's string of 97 consecutive starts coming to an end earlier this year, Greg Dupell is now Navy's active leader in consecutive starts with 77. Dupell started the final 54 games of 2011 and is the only Mid to have started all 23 games this season.
Rinehart on Stopper of the Year Watch List
Junior reliever Joel Rinehart was named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Stopper of the Year watch list, which is awarded annually to the top relief pitcher in NCAA Division I baseball.
The initial watch list will be updated with a mid-season release the week of April 16, including the national saves leaders. At the conclusion of the regular season, the Division I national saves leader and four other relief pitching standouts will be selected as finalists and released June 6, prior to start of NCAA Super Regional tournament competition.
Army-Navy in 2012
In competition across all varsity sports this season, Navy is 16-6 against Army and holds a 14-3 advantage in Star Games. Navy has claimed Star-Game victories in men's and women's soccer, men's golf, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's swimming and diving, football, sprint football, men's and women's indoor track and field, women's basketball, gymnastics and wrestling.
Navy needs two more to clinch the overall series for the 38th time in the last 41 years.
Keeping Runners Alert
After recording nine pickoffs last season, the Mids have five through 23 games this season. The Mids did not record a pickoff in 2010 and had just two in 2009. The Navy record for pickoffs in a season is 11, set by the 2006 squad.
Other Navy Odds and Ends
Chris Campbell has started two of the last three games as the Mids' designated hitter and picked up two hits in both appearances ... Chris Cannon carries a team-leading six-game hitting streak into this weekend ... Junior Jake Coffey picked up his first career win by pitching 2.1 innings of no-hit relief against Georgetown ... Dylan Wheeler has started three of the past four games and had a hit in each of the starts ... Freshman shortstop David Wiedeman tied a career-high with three RBIs on a bases clearing double in the 6-3 win over Georgetown.
Navy will travel to Bucknell, April 7-8, for a four-game series.