Bucknell and Navy advance in PL Tourney

FROM CBB NEWS SOURCES

Bucknell 1 Army 0 (Final)

WEST POINT, N.Y. – Freshman Drew Constable (West Chester, Pa./Henderson) knocked in the winning run and Bison hurlers freshman Eric Jarrett (Jersey Shore, Pa./Jersey Shore) and senior Jason Buursma (Seattle, Wash./Lakeside School) combined for a two-hit shutout as the Bucknell baseball team defeated Army, 1-0, to advance to the Patriot League championship against Navy next week. The Bison are now 24-22-2 and will play in the championship series for the second time in the past three seasons, while the Black Knights fall to 24-25.

With the squads locked up in a scoreless battle, Bucknell managed to get a runner to third for the first time in the contest for either side, loading the bases in the top of the sixth. Senior Mark Angelo (Quakertown, Pa./Quakertown) started things off with a one-out single, while Buursma and sophomore Andrew Brouse (Kreamer, Pa./Midd-West) were both hit by pitches. The Bison would not score, however, as Army hurler Cole White worked out of a 3-1 count to sophomore John Avanzino (Manhasset, N.Y./Manhasset) and induced a ground ball off the bat of senior Ed Rubbo (Stafford, Va./Colonial Forge) to escape the jam.

The Orange and Blue finally broke through for the only run of the afternoon with two down in the top of the eighth. Angelo led off the inning with a walk, stole second and Constable sent a single through the left side to bring home Angelo.

Bucknell starter Jarrett was virtually flawless through 5.2 scoreless innings as he surrendered just two hits, walked one and struck out eight. Buursma threw the remaining 3.1 hitless innings and logged the victory (7-3), striking out three.

The Bison, at the No. 3-seed in the tournament will travel to No 2. Navy for a best-of-three championship series. Dates and times have not yet been announced.

Navy 9 Holy Cross 5 (Final)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Navy baseball team rallied from two early deficits to defeat Holy Cross, 9-5, in the third and deciding game of the Patriot League Semifinal series on Sunday at Terwilliger Brothers Field at Max Bishop Stadium. Navy improved to 32-23-1 on the year, while Holy Cross ended its season with a 21-28 record.

After dropping the first game of the best-of-three series, second-seeded Navy won the final two contests and will host Bucknell on May 17-18 in Annapolis for a best-of-three Patriot League Championship series. The fourth-seeded Bison split Saturday twinbill at top-seeded Army and won the third and deciding ballgame on Sunday, 1-0, to advance to the finals. The winner of the Patriot League Championship series will earn an automatic berth to the 2008 NCAA Tournament, which begins on May 30.

“We faced elimination twice this weekend, but were able to get through it and get to the other side,” stated Navy head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. “We have to keep this in perspective. We know our opponent coming up will be Bucknell and they will certainly battle us. We can celebrate tonight, but need to get back at it and keep working.”

Navy’s three through five hitters – Thomas Hamilton (Sr./Houston, Texas), Michael Speciale (So./Pearland, Texas) and Kendall Bolt (So./Stockton, Calif.) – combined to go 10-for-14 at the plate with four doubles, five runs scored and three RBIs. Bolt led the group with a 4-for-5 showing with a double, while Speciale went 3-for-4 with two doubles and Hamilton finished 3-for-5 with a two-bagger. Hamilton’s third and final hit of the game – an infield single in the eighth – pushed his career total to 227, passing the school-record of 226 base knocks held by Toph Lake (1995-98).

“The middle of the lineup was outstanding today,” said Kostacopoulos. “We started the season as a below-average offensive team, but have worked hard and risen up to a competitive team. We are able to string our lineup much deeper than we had before.

“Consistency has been the biggest thing with Thomas (Hamilton) all season. Whenever you get 84 hits in a season, you are doing a great job of avoiding any kind of slump or downward turn. He works in every at bat – he never gives one away. He’s also a student of the game, which really has helped him develop that consistency. Yesterday, Holy Cross pounded him away and he got his hits to right. Today, they tried to pound him inside and made the adjustment to pull the ball and got three hits to show for it.”

Holy Cross jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second, but Navy immediately responded with a three-spot in the bottom half of the frame. Speciale and Bolt led off with back-to-back singles before an errant throw on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Jeff Bland (Fr./Basking Ridge, N.J.) allowed Speciale to come around and tie the game at one. Bolt would eventually score on a wild pitch and Bland touched home on a RBI-single by Bill Maugeri (Sr./Edgewater, Md.).

The Crusaders came back in the third inning with three unearned runs to re-gain the lead. The visitors produced back-to-back one-out singles before Navy starter Mark McCoy (Sr./Parkland, Fla.) induced what appeared to be an inning-ending double play. However, the ball scooted under the glove of Bolt and one run came around to score. After a run-scoring fielder’s choice tied the game once again, Holy Cross drove in its third run of the frame with a bloop double to right.

The Midshipmen, who faced elimination yesterday and again on Sunday, again answered the challenge and scored three more times in the fourth to take a lead it would not relinquish. Maugeri delivered a one-out double to the gap in left-center before scoring on a Nick Driscoll (Fr./Riverview, Fla.) triple to right-center, which chased Holy Cross starter Mike Thater out of the game after 61 pitches. Renaldo Hollins (Sr./Virginia Beach, Va.) greeted relief pitcher Matt O’Brien with a RBI-single to center. One out later, Hamilton knocked home Hollins with a line drive double to left-center. Navy increased it lead to three at 7-4 in the sixth with a two-out, RBI-double from Bolt.

Holy Cross would make things interesting in the seventh, as it was able to force McCoy out of the game and pull within two at 7-5. However, that would be as close as the Crusaders would come, as reliever Drew Carlson (So./Boca Raton, Fla.) fired three shutout innings with four strikeouts to earn his third save of the year.

“Drew has given us that type of performance all year for us,” stated Kostacopoulos. “He has come in between six to eight times this spring in a very tight spot and got out of it with zero or only one run coming around to score. Today, every ball that was hit was on the ground. He went out there and did his job, which is why we have so much confidence in him.”

Navy’s offense provided two insurance runs in the eighth. With two outs and nobody on, Hamilton recorded his career-record hit before Speciale blasted a ground-rule double to left to put two Mids in scoring position. Bolt followed with a hard-hit RBI-single that the third baseman made a diving stop for, but his throw sailed wide of first to allow Speciale to also come around to score.

McCoy battled back from a tough start over the first-three innings – a span in which he threw 75 pitches – to finish the contest with six-plus innings of work to earn his sixth win of the year. He scattered 10 hits and five runs, only two of which were earned, with one walk and three strikeouts in a 111-pitch afternoon.

“I thought Mark pitched really well. He has proven in the past and again today that he is a big-game pitcher,” said Kostacopoulos. “Our defense cost him about 25 pitches in the first-three innings. However, he was able to overcome that and the opponent. He did a great job of showing how competitive he is.”

Maugeri also had a multi-hit performance, as the Midshipmen out-hit the Crusaders, 14-12. Navy hit .313 (36-for-115) over the three-game set against Holy Cross, nine of which went for extra bases.

Live statistics for each of the Patriot League Championship series against Bucknell next weekend in Annapolis will be available via GameTracker on www.NavySports.com(.)