May 11, 2008
West Point, N.Y. and Annapolis, Md. - Bucknell and Navy claimed victories in game three of their semifinal series on Sunday to advance to next week's Patriot League Baseball Championship series.
The No. 4 seeded Bison knocked off No. 1 seed Army, 1-0, on the road. No. 2 seed Navy came back to win the series after losing the first game with a 9-5 victory at home against No. 3 Holy Cross. Bucknell and Navy will meet in next weekend's Patriot League Baseball Championship series, currently set to begin on Saturday in Annapolis.
The Bison advance to the Championship series for the first time since 2006, and are in search of their first title since 2003. Navy is in the Championship round for the first time since 2003 when it lost to Bucknell. The Mids last won the title in 2002.
The starting pitchers controlled the action for the first five innings at West Point. Army's Cole White allowed three hits in the first five frames, while Bucknell's Eric Jarrett gave up just a pair of hits while striking out seven. Bucknell had the only opportunity with two runners on base, but White retired Ben Allen on a groundout to shortstop with men on first and second to end the top of the fifth.
Bucknell (24-22-2) put together a rally in the sixth inning, with a single and two hit batters loading the bases with one out for pinch-hitter John Avanzino. White stepped up to get out of the inning, striking out Avanzino looking on a 3-2 pitch on the outside corner and retiring Ed Rubbo on a groundout to short to keep the game scoreless.
Army (24-25) had a threat of its own with a man on second in the bottom of the sixth, but Jason Buursma came out of the bullpen to retire White on a line drive to center to end the inning.
The game stayed scoreless through the seventh, but Bucknell finally broke through against White in the eighth. Mark Angelo walked to lead off the inning, then stole second to move into scoring position. With two outs, Drew Constable grounded a single through the left side to score Angelo with the first and only run of the game.
Buursma took over from there, retiring Army in order in the eighth and ninth innings. He got White on a fly ball to center field to seal the victory and send Bucknell to its first Patriot League Championship series since 2006. Buursma threw 3.1 perfect innings to pick up the victory. He earned both of Bucknell's wins out of relief in the series, throwing seven innings total with just one hit allowed. Buursma improves to 7-3 on the season, becoming Bucknell's first pitcher with seven wins since 2001
Constable's single came in his only at-bat of the game. Jarrett threw 5.2 innings of two-hit ball with eight strikeouts and only one walk ahead of Buursma's perfect innings. The two pitchers combined to retire 19 of the last 20 Army hitters, and kept the Black Knights without a hit after Clint Moore's third-inning double.
White went eight innings for the Black Knights, giving up just the one run on five hits with eight strikeouts.
Navy (32-23-1) and Holy Cross (21-28) had a much more hectic start to their game, with the teams combining for seven runs in the first three innings. After the Crusaders opened the scoring in the top of the second, the Mids responded with three runs in the bottom of the frame. Michael Speciale and Kendall Bolt singled to start the inning, then Speciale came around to tie the score at 1-1 on an error. Bolt gave Navy the lead when he scored on a wild pitch, and the Mids completed the scoring in the frame when Bill Maugeri singled to bring in Jeff Bland.
The Crusaders came right back with three runs in the top of the third. Gil Gomez and Eric Oxford singled to start the inning, then came around to score with the help of a Navy error and a fielder's choice. John Sills put Holy Cross up, 4-3, with a two-out RBI double to score Kyle Lister.
It stayed that way until the bottom of the fourth, when the Mids got all the offense they would need the rest of the way. Maugeri got things going with a one-out double, and came around to score on Nick Driscoll's triple. That chased Holy Cross starter Mike Thater, but the Mids kept going when Renaldo Hollins singled in Driscoll to make it a 5-4 Navy lead. Thomas Hamilton doubled in Hollins to give Navy a 6-4 advantage at the end of the frame.
Navy starter Mark McCoy settled in from there, holding Holy Cross off the scoreboard in the fifth and sixth innings. Navy added a run in the sixth when Bolt doubled in Hamilton, then had to hold off a Holy Cross rally in the seventh.
A leadoff single by Brendan Akashian was the end of the day for McCoy. A walk and a pair of groundouts helped Akashian come around to cut the Crusader deficit to 7-5, but Drew Carlson struck out Lister with a man on second.
The Mids added a pair of insurance runs in the eighth inning, with Bolt driving in a run and Speciale scoring on a throwing error. Carlson completed his third scoreless inning in the ninth to get the save and send Navy to its first Patriot League Championship series since 2003.
Navy's 3-4-5 hitters combined to go 10-for-14 with five runs scored and three RBI. Hamilton was 3-for-5 with two runs and an RBI, Speciale went 3-for-4 with two runs and Bolt finished 4-for-5 with a run and two RBI. Maugeri, Driscoll and Hollins all had a run scored and an RBI.
McCoy improved his record to 6-4 by going six innings with five runs allowed, though only two were earned. Carlson allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out four in his three innings of work to get the save.
Thater took the loss for the Crusaders as he went 3.1 innings and allowed four earned runs. Eric Oxford was 3-for-5 with a run scored, while Gil Gomez went 2-for-4 with a run.
Sunday's games were the first time since 2003 that a Patriot League Tournament series went to a game three. In that season, Bucknell beat Navy to claim the Championship.
Prior to this season, the Patriot League Tournament was a three-team event and only the Championship series was a best-of-three. Because of that, Bucknell is the first No. 4 seed to play in the field and will try to become the first to win the Championship. Army is the first No. 1 seed that will not play in the Championship round, since the top seed had a bye to the title matchup in the previous format. The No. 1 seed had won the last six Patriot League titles, with the last instance where the top seed did not win coming on Bucknell's triumph as a No. 2 seed at Navy in the Championship series in 2001.
Bucknell has an 8-6 advantage in Patriot League Tournament history against Navy. The teams will meet in the Championship round for the sixth time. All three of Bucknell's League titles (1996, 2001, 2003) came when they faced the Mids in the Championship series. Navy's titles in 1998 and 1999 came at the expense of the Bison. The matchups in 1998 and 2001 were played in Annapolis.
The teams split their four games this season when they met in Lewisburg.
For game box scores and more schedule information, go to the Patriot League Championship page.