June 1, 2011
Navy Heads to the NCAA Tournament for the First Time since `02
The Midshipmen will be making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002 when they meet No. 1 seed Virginia on Friday at 1 p.m. in game one of the Charlottesville Regional. Navy earned its ninth NCAA Tournament bid in program history by defeating Army, 2-1, in a best-of-three Patriot League Championship series.
Navy in the NCAA Tournament
Navy is 4-14 all-time in the NCAA Tournament. In the Mids' last appearance in 2002, they went 1-2 in the Winston-Salem Regional. After falling to No. 2 seed Richmond in game one, Navy won its first NCAA Tournament game since 1982 by defeating George Washington, 6-4. The Midshipmen were bounced from the tournament by falling to host Wake Forest in their next game.
A complete year-by-year breakdown of Navy's tournament appearances is provided in the game notes.
How They Got Here
The Midshipmen finished the regular season at 12-8 in conference play, securing first place, and the No. 1 seed in the Patriot League Tournament for the first time since 2002.
In the best-of-three semifinal series, Navy defeated Bucknell, 2-1. The Mids dropped game one, 1-0, in a 16-inning marathon, but responded to win games two, 6-1, and three, 6-0, to take the series.
Against rival Army in the championship series, Navy won game one, 4-3, but fell in the second game of the doubleheader, 6-3, setting up a winner-take-all final game three. Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning in the deciding game three, Navy scored three runs and added another in the seventh for a 5-3 win, becoming the first top seed to win the league tourney since 2007.
Pitching Staff Peaks at the Right Time
Navy has reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2002 thanks in large part to the success of the pitching staff down the stretch. Navy arms combined for a 1.95 ERA and limited opponents to a .208 batting average in the six-game Patriot League Tournament. The staff also combined for 50 strikeouts in the tournament and issued just 15 walks.
In its last 15 contests, Navy has allowed four runs or fewer in 11 games and dropped its team ERA by 0.53 to 4.94. In those 15 games, Navy's strikeout-to-walk ratio is just over 2-to-1.
Navy entered the season with a total of 25 freshmen or sophomores on its roster, and to date, it has received significant offensive production from its group of underclassmen. Five of the nine starters in Navy's probable batting order are either freshmen or sophomores. This season, 12 freshmen and sophomores have combined for 50% team's 300 total RBIs and 53.5% of the team's 521 hits.
By comparison with last year's senior-laden team, the freshmen and sophomores in 2010 accounted for just 21% of the team's total hits and 19.8% of the team's total RBIs.
Kostacopoulos Making Fifth NCAA Tournament Appearance
Head coach Paul Kostacopoulos is making is fifth appearance in the NCAA Tournament. He previously guided Providence (1992 & `95) and Maine (2002, `05) to the tournament.
A Resilient Squad
In 17 doubleheaders this season, 10 of which came in the conference, Navy was never swept. The Mids went 9-8 in the first game of twin bills, but posted a 12-5 mark in the second game.
Since starting the season 0-5, Navy lost more than two consecutive games just once (lost to Army, George Mason and Bucknell, April 10-17).
Hold `Em Under Five
Navy has held its opponents to five or fewer runs in 34 of its 57 games this season. Over the last 12 games, Navy has limited opponents to four runs or fewer on nine occasions, going 7-2 in those contests.
By comparison, last season Navy held its opponents to fewer than five runs in 32 of its 51 games, going 22-10.
A New K Record
The pitching staff established a program record for strikeouts in a season with 414. The previous high mark of 407 was set in 2007.
Class of `11 Sets the Standard
Navy's six seniors - Jeff Bland (Navy Supply), Nick Driscoll (Surface Warfare Officer), Sam Long (Marine Ground), Wes Olson (Navy SEALs), Luke Roberts (Naval Flight Officer) and Jonathan Wright (Naval Pilot) enter play on Friday with a career record of 115-95-3 (.547). The 115 wins are the most by any class in program history.
Pitching Staff Allows Just Two Runs in 34 Innings
Navy won its best-of-three series, 2-1, with Bucknell thanks to outstanding pitching and defense. Navy held the Bison to a total of just two runs over the three games that spanned 34 innings. It marked the fewest amount of runs by an opponent over a consecutive three-game span since 1993 when Navy allowed a total of just one run in wins over Bowie State (11-0), Catholic (14-0), and Fordham (11-1).
Bucknell's two runs over 34 innings were the fewest by the opposition since 1986 when Navy allowed just two runs in a 35-inning span over five games in defeating Dartmouth (4-0, 5-0), Harvard (2-1, 11-1) and Penn (2-0).
Six Midshipmen were voted to the All-Patriot League teams. In addition, Paul Kostacopoulos was named Coach of the Year, while Taylor Cato garnered Rookie of the Year honors.
Relief pitcher Wes Olson and designated hitter Dave Milanes were both named to the All-Patriot League first team, while starting pitchers Sam Long and Johnny Schoberl joined first baseman Greg Dupell and second baseman Nick Driscoll on the second team.
Navy and Bucknell led all schools with six student-athletes named to the All-Patriot League teams. It marked the second time since 2008 that six Midshipmen were named to the All-Patriot League teams.
The Coach of the Year award was the first for Kostacopoulos, who became the fourth Navy coach to garner the honor. Cato was the first freshman in academy history to be named Patriot League Rookie of the Year since the award's inception in 2002.
Starting or Relieving, Olson Gets it Done
After making his first 14 appearances of the season out of the bullpen, senior pitcher Wes Olson has successfully transitioned back into a starting role. Entering 2011, Olson served primarily as a starter in his first three seasons, making 27 starts in 35 career appearances. After Johnny Schoberl was lost for the season due to injury on April 25, Olson stepped back into a starting role.
At 7-1 on the year, Olson is the first Midshipman to win seven games since 2007 when Mitch Harris (8-5) and Mark McCoy (8-4) both had eight victories. The All-Patriot League first-team honoree has picked up wins in four of his last five outings, allowing six earned runs off 22 hits in 23.2 innings. The righty hasn't allowed more than one run in nine of his last 12 appearances.
Relievers Joel Rinehart and Preston Gainey have been instrumental in the success of the Navy pitching staff this season, as both have been solid out of the bullpen all season.
Gainey, who was twice named the Patriot League Rookie of the Week, is 2-0 with four saves in 13 appearances. The freshman has allowed just eight runs in 30.0 innings, and has 36 strikeouts and 15 walks. The Pompano Beach, Fla., native was named to the Patriot League All-Tournament Team by going 1-0 with two saves and not allowing a run in four appearances.
Rinehart leads the staff with a 1.88 ERA in a team-leading 22 outings, totaling 48.0 innings. The sophomore from Kingwood, Texas, has allowed just 12 runs (10 earned). He hasn't allowed a run in 15 of his 22 total appearances and has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 3-to1.
On the season the Navy bullpen has an ERA of 4.57.
Dupell Garners Academic Award
Greg Dupell was named to the inaugural Academic All-Patriot League Team, which was selected by the conference's sports information directors. Dupell, who was one of 12 players named to the team, is currently hitting .322 and is a history major with a 3.25 GPA.
Rising to the Challenge
Navy went 7-3 against teams that played in the 2010 NCAA Baseball Championship. Navy went 4-3 against Bucknell and earlier in the season, it defeated Central Connecticut State, twice (3-2, 9-2) and then Jacksonville State, 8-5, on March 16.
The 16-Inning Marathon
Navy `s 1-0 loss to Bucknell in the opening game of the Patriot League semifinal series that went 16 innings was the second-longest game in Navy history. Despite the game going 16 innings, it was played in just 3:53.
The longest game in Navy history went 17 innings as Harvard defeated the Mids, 6-5, in 1949.
Getting It Done Away From Home
Navy's success in Patriot League play can partially be attributed to its 8-4 record in conference road games. Navy's eight Patriot League wins away from home were the most since the 2003 team also won eight conference road games and went 12-8 in the league.
Navy outscored its Patriot League foes, 76-51, on the road this season and the pitching staff had an ERA of 4.34 in those games - 0.60 lower than its current overall ERA of 4.94. Offensively, six Mids hit .300 or better in conference road games.
Azor One of the Nation's Toughest Outs
With a total of 75 hits, Alex Azor has been one of the Patriot League's top hitters and has led the conference nearly all season. The junior from Miami, Fla., now ranks in a tie for third place on Navy's single-season hit list.
When NCAA statistics were released on May 31, Azor ranked as the nation's 16th-toughest hitter to strikeout, with an average of one K per 20.5 at-bats. Azor was the only Patriot League player to be ranked in the top 50 in the nation in the category.
With a total of 158 hits through 131-career games, Azor is three hits away from breaking into the top 15 on Navy's all-time hits list.
In winning the Patriot League title, four Midshipmen - Ben Nelson, Preston Gainey, Nick Driscoll and Alex Azor - were named to the All-Tournament team. Nelson was named MVP of the tournament as he posted a 0.98 ERA in two starts totaling 18.1 innings. Gainey went 1-0 with two saves out of the bullpen.
Second baseman Driscoll hit .304 in the six games and tied for the team lead with five RBIs. Azor hit .292 in the tournament and had four RBIs.
No Place For a Nervous Person
So far this season, Navy has had a total of 24 games decided by two runs or fewer. Sixteen of those games have been decided by one run - the most since 2008 when it played in 18 one-run games, going 9-9.
Under Paul Kostacopoulos, Navy is 48-36 in one-run games.
2011: 9-7 (.563)
2010: 6-5 (.545)
2009: 5-4 (.556)
2008: 9-9 (.500)
2007: 9-7 (.563)
2006: 10-4 (.714)
The 2011 Midshipmen have moved into the top 15 on the program's single-season doubles and triples lists. With 23 triples, the Mids have the fifth most in program history, while their 91 doubles rank in a tie for fifth.
Navy's 23 triples are the most since the 2008 team had 25.
Another Tough Assignment
The Patriot League champion is matched up with the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in the past three years as Army went to No. 1 Texas in 2009. Last season, Bucknell played at unseeded South Carolina last season, who went on to win the NCAA title.
Patriot League vs. Non-League Opponents
The Patriot League came in just under .500 with a 78-84-2 mark in non-League action this season, with Navy putting together a 17-13-1 record. The only game against one of Navy's regional foes was played on March 20, when Holy Cross lost at home to St. John's, 8-2. The Crusaders were also the lone Patriot League team to play a ranked foe, getting swept in a three-game series to open the season at LSU. Patriot League teams went 5-5-1 against the tournament field, with a 5-1 mark against Ivy League champion Princeton. Navy won three of four against the Tigers in March
Milanes Leads in RBIs
Designated hitter Dave Milanes ranks third in the Patriot League in RBIs as he enters play this weekend with a total of 48.
Earlier this season, Milanes had a career-high, nine-game hitting streak. He also reached base safely in 15 consecutive games, tying Alex Azor for the longest streak of the season.
The sophomore entered the season with just two at-bats in his career and is currently hitting .304. His 13 multi-RBI games this season are the most by any Mid.
Nelson Leads the League; Named Tournament MVP
Sophomore pitcher Ben Nelson has ranked near the top of the Patriot League in several categories this season. Currently, he ranks first in innings pitched (85.1), strikeouts (77), games started (15) and is tied for first in complete games (four).
Nelson hasn't walked more than one batter in 11 of his 15 starts.
Nelson was named the MVP of the Patriot League Tournament as he posted a 0.98 ERA in 18.1 innings pitched. He threw 10.0 shutouts innings in the 1-0, 16-inning loss to Bucknell and then earned the win in Navy's 4-3 victory over Army by allowing three runs in 8.1 innings.
Keeping Runners Honest
The Navy pitching staff has nine pickoffs this season, which is the most by the Midshipmen since 2007 when they had 10. The Mids did not record a pickoff last season and had just two in 2009.
The Navy record for pickoffs in a season is 11, set by the 2006 squad.
Mids Win 13 Games in April
Navy went 13-9 in April as it posted its most wins in the month since the 2002 squad also won 13 games.
Patriot-League Preseason Poll
The Patriot League Preseason Poll, as voted on by the conference's head coaches and sports information contacts, selected Navy to finish fifth.
The league's 2010 champion, Bucknell, was picked to finish second as Army, which received six first-place votes, was selected to win the conference. Holy Cross was picked third and Lehigh was selected fourth.
The 5-for-5 Club
Both Alex Azor and Jeff Bland have gone 5-for-5 in games this season. Bland has accomplished the feat twice within an 11-game span. Most recently, he went 5-for-5 in Navy's 12-2 win over Lehigh on April 3. Prior to that, Bland went 5-for-5 with two doubles and four RBIs in a 15-7 win over Yale on March 19.
Azor started the Mids' trip to Florida with a 5-for-5 performance against Central Michigan. His five-hit game was the first by a Midshipman since April 26, 2008 when Mike Guadagnini had five hits against Holy Cross.
Lighting Up the Scoreboard
When Navy and Chicago State met for the first time in program history on March 15, the two teams combined for one of the most-high scoring games in recent Navy history. The Mids defeated the Cougars, 17-14, while the two teams combined for 32 hits. The 31 total runs were the most combined runs in a game for Navy since it defeated Lafayette, 30-2, on March 28, 1998 in Easton, Pa.
Driscoll Comes Through in the Clutch Against Bucknell
Senior Nick Driscoll delivered the winning hits in consecutive games against Bucknell earlier this season. In Navy's 5-2 win over Bucknell, Driscoll went 3-for-4 and delivered the winning runs with a two-RBI single. Driscoll topped that performance the next day with an extra-inning, walk-off hit. With the game tied at five in eighth inning, Driscoll belted a single through the middle that scored Josh Moore and gave Navy a 6-5 win.
After graduating 10 seniors last spring, the Mids returned with a much younger squad in 2011 as 25 of team's 35 players at the beginning of the season were either freshmen or sophomores.
Navy's Opening Day lineup in 2011 included two seniors, three juniors, three sophomores and one freshman that, entering the season, had collectively started a total of 335 games with 457 total combined appearances. By comparison, Navy's lineup on Opening Day 2010 featured far more experience with four seniors, three juniors and two sophomores that had a combined 841 appearances and (+384 games) 733 games started (+398 games).
This season's Navy roster includes the most freshmen, and highest total of underclassmen, since the NCAA instituted a 35-player roster limit in 2009.
All Even After 10...
Navy's 8-8 tie in 10 innings with Towson on March 9 was its first since a 5-5 deadlock with Delaware in the third game of the 2009 season. In its 116-year history, Navy has 37 ties.