Navy takes two from Monmouth

ANNAPOLIS, Md.-- Navy sophomore Mitch Harris (Mt. Holly, N.C.) struck out 11 in a complete game effort in game one and went 3-for-8 at the plate on Saturday as the Navy baseball team recorded a doubleheader sweep of Monmouth, 4-3 and 5-4 in 11 innings, at Terwilliger Brothers Field at Max Bishop Stadium. With the victories, Navy extended its winning streak to six games and improved to 16-5-1 on the year.

Monmouth, tabbed as the preseason favorite to win the Northeast Conference this season, saw its record drop to 3-10 this season.

"Two overall great college baseball games were played today," stated Navy head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. "Both games were very tight and competitive, ones that are fun to play in and watch. Monmouth is a very good baseball team. Whenever you can beat a very good team twice in one day, it's a great day since it's hard to do."

Harris became the first pitcher since Chuck Davis in 1961 to win his first-seven starts of a season in his complete game performance during game one Saturday's doubleheader. The sophomore tied his career high in strikeouts, while not walking a batter in his second-consecutive start. Harris has not issued a base on balls since the fifth inning against Central Connecticut State on March 4, a span of 16.1 innings. The right-hander fanned 10-plus batters for the third time this season, including striking out the side for the side for the seventh-time this year in the fourth inning on Saturday.

"Today was just another great performance by Mitch," Kostacopoulos said. "He was able to locate with all of his pitches. He is just doing everything for us right now."

The Midshipmen offense scored two runs in each of the first-two innings to stake Harris a 4-0 cushion. Senior catcher Jonathan Johnston (Hamilton Township, N.J.) singled up the middle and stole second base then came around to score on senior Jared Munde's (Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.) single to right-center. Munde advanced to second on a balk and touched home on Harris' RBI-single to left to give the Mids a 2-0 lead.

Junior Dominic Lopez (Quincy, Mich.) walked with one out in the second inning, followed by sophomore Renaldo Hollins' (Virginia Beach, Va.) run-scoring triple to the gap in left-center. Hollins came home to score on the next play as the second baseman dropped a popup just beyond the infield to push the Navy lead to 4-0.

Monmouth struck for three runs in the third inning and had the tying run on third with two outs, but Harris got out of the inning with a strikeout and settled into a groove for the remainder of the ball game. After a bunt single in the third with nobody out, Harris retired the final-15 batters of the game in order.

Johnston swiped three bags in the opening contest to push his season total to 20 stolen bases on the year.

Monmouth starter Matt Marc-Aurele fell to 1-1 on the year despite a complete game effort in which he struck out seven and walked two Mids.

The two teams failed to push a run across the plate in the first-three innings during game two of the doubleheader before the visiting Hawks built a 2-0 lead in the fourth.

Navy immediately answered with two runs in the bottom half of the inning to tie the contest. After sophomore Thomas Hamilton (Houston, Texas) and Munde produced back-to-back singles, Harris belted a two-run triple to left-center to make the score 2-2.

However, Monmouth took the lead in the sixth with a run and tacked on another in the seventh to hold a 4-2 advantage over the Mids.

Trailing by two with two outs in the bottom of the eighth and nobody on, Johnston worked a full-count walk to set the stage for Hamilton. The sophomore took the 0-1 delivery from Monmouth starter Brad Brach and deposited the pitch over the 372-sign in right-center to knot the ball game at four.

"That home run was absolutely huge for us," stated Kostacopoulos. "We haven't been a come-from-behind team in the late innings this year."

Neither team scored in the ninth or tenth before Navy ended the game in the 11th inning. Munde led off the inning with a ground-rule double to left, which led to Monmouth lifting reliever Justin Esposito in favor of Kevin Schneider. Schneider induced a groundout that forced Munde to hold at second for the first out of the inning. Freshman Joshua Martinez (Denver, Colo.) drew a five-pitch walk and junior Lewis Hobbs (Wilmington, N.C.) came in to pinch-run for Martinez. With senior Ryan McGinn (Arvada, Colo.) at the plate, Schneider's first pitch got by catcher Mike Hussa to allow Munde to score the game-winning run.

Munde led the way in game two with three hits, two runs scored and the key stolen base in the 11th that allowed him to score on the passed ball.

"Jared (Munde) really hit three balls hard in the game," commented Kostacopoulos. "We set up his steal in the 11th with a casual lead, and he did a great job recognizing the opportunity to take third."

Hamilton went 2-for-5 at the plate, highlighted by his game-tying round tripper in the eighth, in addition to scoring two runs. Harris also boasted a multi-hit effort as Navy's 3-4-5 hitters batted .467 (7-for-15) off Hawks pitchers in game two.

Senior southpaw reliever Ryan Hefner (Creve Coeur, Ill.) got the win to improve to 2-1 on the year, as he struck out one and did not allow a run over the final 1.2 innings. Navy's bullpen of sophomore Spencer Suarez (Tuscaloosa, Ala.), senior Joe Koessler (Knoxville, Tenn.), junior James Lee (Asheville, N.C.) and Hefner teamed up to limit Monmouth to one run on four hits with five strikeouts during the last-five innings as Navy made its late-game comeback.

Patrick Sullivan led Monmouth's 10-hit effort in game two with a 3-for-5 performance, while Kyle Messineo and Andy Meyers each recorded a pair of hits.

The Midshipmen look to complete the series sweep of the Hawks tomorrow in a 12 noon first pitch at Terwilliger Brothers Field at Max Bishop Stadium. Top Stories