Baseball: Army Sweeps Navy on Saturday

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Matt Fouch and Steve Cummings turned strong pitching performances and Steve May collected four hits and six runs batted in, leading Army to a doubleheader sweep of arch-rival Navy, Saturday afternoon at Max Bishop Stadium. With the victories Army continued its recent domination of the Midshipmen, claiming their seventh consecutive series "star."

Army, which has defeated Navy in 12 of the teams' last 13 games and 23 of 27 dating back to 2004, received a pair of stellar starting pitching performances from its two senior left-handers on Saturday.

Fouch (4-1) allowed four runs (3earned) on three hits over six innings, while Cummings (4-1) permitted three runs on nine hits over seven frames. Both pitchers allowed runs in only one inning, limiting the Mids' scoring opportunities throughout the day.

In the seven-inning opener, Army grabbed a 2-0 lead with single runs in the third and fourth innings against Navy starter Sam Long. J.T. Watkins singled and scored on an RBI single by David Darnell in the third, while Kevin McKague singled and scored on a groundout by Ben Koenigsfeld.

Fouch, coming off consecutive complete-game shutouts of Cornell and Holy Cross, was just as effective early on, retiring the first 10 batters he faced in tossing 3.1 innings of no-hit ball. But Navy finally broke through against the Black Knights' standout southpaw, loading the bases when Matthew Curley singled, Alex Azor reached on a catcher's interference call and Michael Speciale was hit by a pitch. Stephen Soares followed with a soft liner down the right field line that fell for a two-run double, Kendall Bolt lofted a sacrifice fly to right and Michael Hoosier stroked a run-scoring single, providing Navy with a 4-2 advantage. The uprising halted Fouch's streak of consecutive scoreless innings pitched at 17.

Navy's lead provided short-lived as the Black Knights responded with five run in their next plate appearance, sending 10 batters to the plate in the top of the fifth inning against Long and reliever Tyler Mapes.

Cody Murtle opened the inning with a walk and Darnell was hit by a pitch. Army scored its first run in the inning when Long threw Zach Price's successful sacrifice bunt down the right field line for an error. With runners at second and third and the Black Knights trailing 4-3, May delivered a two-run single to center field. Army added two runs later in the inning against Mapes on an RBI grounder by Koenigsfeld and a sacrifice fly by Watkins, stretching its lead to 7-4.

After Fouch retired the Mids in order in the bottom of the fifth, the Black Knights added an insurance run in the sixth off Navy reliever Jeff Murdza as Price reached on a bunt single and advanced to third when Murzda threw wildly to first base. May promptly followed with a single through the left side of the infield to deliver Price with Army's eighth run.

A two-run pop-fly double to shallow center field by Mike Guadignini with one out in the seventh against Army closer Kevin McKague drew the Mids to within 8-6, bringing the potential tying run to the plate. But McKague stiffened from there, retiring Curley on a high popout to shortstop and Azor on a grounded out to third base to end the game.

Fouch was untouchable outside of the fourth inning, retiring Navy in order in five of his six innings of work. He struck out two and walked one. Long (3-3) suffered the loss for the Mids, surrendering five runs (4 earned) on four hits, while fanning three and walking one.

May paced the Black Knights offense, finishing the first game 2-for-4 with one run scored and three runs batted in. McKague added two hits and one run scored for Army, which outhit Navy by a 10-6 margin in the first game.

Army (14-10, 5-1 Patriot) jumped on Navy starter Zach Sipe for four runs on five hits in the second inning of the nightcap to forge an early 4-0 lead. The Black Knights inflicted the majority of their damage with two outs in the inning as Koenigsfeld sandwiched a single around outs by McKague and Watkins. Murtle followed with a two-out single and Koenigsfeld moved to third on the play when Azor mishandled the ball in center field. Darnell's clutch, two-out single to left field delivered Koenigsfeld with the first run of the contest. A line single to center scored Murtle, before May's two-run double to right field stretched Army's lead to 4-0.

Navy (20-12, 2-4 Patriot) strung together four hits against Cummings in the fourth to pull within 4-3, scoring three runs on a two-out, two-run double to right-center field by Mike Hoosier and an RBI single to center by Josh Moore. But the Mids wouldn't score again as Cummings stranded two runners on base in the fifth inning, then worked a 1-2-3 sixth and scoreless seventh.

By the time Cummings departed to start the bottom of the eighth, the Black Knights had built their advantage to 8-3, scoring a single run in the fifth when Joey Henshaw walked and scored on a fielder's choice groundout by Koenigsfeld, two runs in the sixth and one more in the seventh.

McKague's sharp run-scoring single to left chased Sipe in the sixth and provided Cummings with a 7-3 cushion. Army, which scored in each of its final five plate appearances, added single runs in the seventh and eighth innings, and two more in the ninth to seal its fifth straight Patriot League victory.

Manny Fernandez and Chris Simpkins tossed one scoreless inning of relief apiece for the Black Knights, who retained their one-game lead in the Patriot League standings over Lehigh with the sweep.

Darnell went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and two runs batted in and May went 2-for-5 with three runs batted in to lead Army's 15-hit attack in the second game. Price, McKague and Koeningsfeld registered two hits each for the Black Knights. Price chipped in with two runs scored and one RBI, while Koenigsfeld finished with two RBI and one run scored.

"It was a real nice day of baseball," said Army head coach Joe Sottolano, whose team has not lost a season series to Navy since 2003. "All three aspects of the game - pitching, defense and offense showed up today. Matt Fouch once again got us going on the mound with another strong outing and Steve Cummings carried that momentum into the second game. From an offensive standpoint, our lineup really extended today. Top through bottom, the guys did a great job coming up with quality at-bats throughout each and every inning.

"I'm proud of everyone on the ball club, especially the three senior pitchers that threw today. Having said that, we understand that there are two more ball games tomorrow, and we'll take them one at a time."

In other Patriot League action on Saturday, Bucknell split a doubleheader with Holy Cross in Lewisburg, while Lehigh swept two games from Lafayette in Bethlehem.

Army and Navy will conclude their four game Patriot League series with another doubleheader at Max Bishop Stadium on Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for noon.

Black Knights Blog: Army leads second-place Lehigh (4-2) by one full game in the Patriot League standings and third-place Bucknell (3-3) by two games ... Navy, Lafayette and Holy Cross are tied for fourth place with 2-4 conference marks, three games behind the Black Knights ... Army's only fielding error on Saturday came on a catcher's interference call ... Navy, meanwhile, committed five fielding errors in the first game and two in the second ... the Black Knights ran their winning streak over Navy in Annapolis to 10 games with Saturday's doubleheader sweep of the Mids ... Army has swept five consecutive twinbills from Navy at Max Bishop Stadium ... the teams split a doubleheader at Camden Yards in Baltimore in 2006 ... the Black Knights have won 12 of their last 13 meetings against Navy in Annapolis ... Army managed just one extra-base hit in the two victories ... the Mids scored in just three innings on Saturday ... Matt Fouch improved his career record to 18-10 ... Cummings upped his career mark to 7-2 ... Joey Henshaw returned to Army's starting lineup after missing eight straight games due to an injured hip ... he went 2-for-7 with four runs scored in the twinbill ... Shaun Wixted sat out both games due to a shoulder problem ... Army's leading hitter has missed 12 consecutive contests due to the ailment ... David Darnell posted another strong Patriot League showing, finishing the day 4-for-7 with three runs scored and two runs batted in ... Darnell batted .385 during Army's four-game series at Holy Cross last weekend ... Army will conclude its Patriot League road slate on Sunday ... the Black Knights end conference action with 12 straight contests at Doubleday Field ... head coach Joe Sottolano, who became Army's all-time winningest coach during last Sunday's sweep of Holy Cross, boasts a 29-14 career record versus Navy ... Army has not dropped a season series to Navy since 2003.

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