Army-Navy split doubleheader

(AP Photo/ U.S. Navy, Johnny Bivera)

WEST POINT-- Navy junior right-handed pitcher Mark McCoy (Parkland, Fla.) fired his first-career nine-inning complete game in the nightcap as the Midshipmen split their Saturday doubleheader against Army at Doubleday Field in West Point. Army rallied to win the first game in eight innings, 4-3, before Navy won game two, 6-4.

With the split, the Midshipmen moved to 30-14 overall and 10-4 in Patriot League play. The Black Knights went to 14-18-1 on the year and 5-7 in league action. With Saturday's victory in the nightcap, the Midshipmen recorded their first back-to-back 30-win seasons in the program's 112-year history.

"Our performance in the second game really shows a lot about our team," stated Navy head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. "We are continually growing as a team and as a program. To come back after losing an emotional first game, bunching hits together in the fourth and maintaining the lead for the win, it's quite impressive."

McCoy threw 133 pitches on the afternoon and did not allow a hit over his final 4.2 innings of work. The Navy right-hander retired the last 11 batters he faced and 14 of the final 15 hitters. Overall, he scattered seven hits and four runs with two walks and three strikeouts.

"Mark McCoy did a tremendous job, really showed me something on the mound," said Kostacopoulos. "After falling behind 2-0 in the second after a tough opening game, we got the lead and Mark shut them down between the fifth and ninth innings. He got stronger as the game went on. I honestly believe that he threw better in the last half of the game than the first half."

"I felt like I found mechanics halfway through the game," stated McCoy. "I was really feeling out my pitchers early on and left balls up in the zone. I started to get the ball down and worked ahead during the later innings.

For his career, McCoy owns a 2-1 record with a 2.28 ERA in 23.2 innings against the Black Knights.

"I really didn't understand the Army-Navy rivalry at first, but with this being my third one against them, it's a lot of fun," said McCoy. "It really gets the adrenaline flowing and makes you focus that little bit extra."

Army jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second with a RBI-single and a sacrifice fly, before Navy rattled off six unanswered runs between the third and fourth to grab the lead for good.

In the third inning, junior Mitch Harris (Mt. Holly, N.C.) singled and moved to second as junior Thomas Hamilton (Houston, Texas) was hit by a pitch. After a wild pitch advanced Harris to third, sophomore Joshua Martinez (Denver, Colo.) grounded out to second to bring in Harris.

The Midshipmen exploded for five runs on four hits in the fourth inning to claim a 6-2 advantage. Freshman Mike Hoosier (Pomona, N.Y.) drew a leadoff walk and freshman Steven Soares (Coral Springs, Fla.) doubled down the left field line to move Hoosier to third. Senior B.J. Bickel (Benson, N.C.) tied the game at two with a single to right, then junior Renaldo Hollins (Virginia Beach, Va.) singled to right-center to put the Mids ahead, 3-2. Senior team captain Michael Garcia (Kailua, Hawaii) delivered a two-run single and Hamilton lifted a sacrifice fly to right for the fifth run of the stanza.

The Black Knights began to chip away, scoring once in the fourth and the fifth, before McCoy shut down the hosts for the remainder of the contest.

Bickel tied his career high with three hits in the ninth spot of the order to lead Navy's 10-hit attack in game two. Soares went 2-for-2 with two walks and a run scored, while Hamilton posted a 2-for-3 effort at the plate with a RBI.

The opening game of Saturday's featured All-American pitchers Harris and Nick Hill squaring off for the first time in the series 101-year history. However, neither pitched factored in the decision.

Harris scattered four hits and one unearned run with two walks and seven strikeouts over five-plus innings on the hill. The Navy junior has struck out more batters than innings pitched in each of his 11 starts this year. Over his last-two starts against Army, Harris owns a 0.82 ERA in 11.0 innings with 13 strikeouts.

Army's Hill went seven innings, as he gave up eight hits and three runs with one walk and eight strikeouts.

After the two teams were held scoreless over the opening two innings, Navy struck first to claim a 2-0 lead. Bickel led off the inning with a single to center, Hollins laced a single off the pitcher's glove and Garcia drew a walk to load the bases with nobody out. Hill looked like he might be able to get out of the jam, as he struck out the next-two batters, but freshman Michael Speciale (Pearland, Texas) belted a two-run single in the left-center gap.

The hosts took advantage of two Navy miscues on one play with two outs to pull within one at 2-1.

Following two scoreless innings, the Black Knights chased Harris following back-to-back singles to lead off the sixth. Navy summoned freshman reliever JD Melton (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) to maintain the one-run lead and after a sacrifice moved the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position, Melton struck out the next two batters to get out of the jam.

The Midshipmen carried that momentum with the bats in the top half of the seventh, scoring a run after having nobody on with two outs. Hollins got things going with a single to right and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Garcia proceeded to hit a single through the middle to plate Hollins and give the Mids a 3-1 cushion.

Melton retired the first batter in the bottom of the seventh before the Black Knights staged a rally to force extra innings. Melton hit the nine-hitter in the order before a double down the left field line and a single to the gap in left center knotted the ballgame at three. After a single put the game-winning run on second, Melton induced a groundball double play to continue play one inning. Prior to Saturday, Melton had successfully converted on all nine of his save attempts.

Navy posted back-to-back singles with one out in the eighth before Army called upon closer Milan Dinga, who got out of the inning with two flyouts. Army popped out to open the bottom half of the eighth before back-to-back singles set the stage for Andy Ernesto, who doubled to left center to bring in the game-ending run.

Melton fell to 2-1 on the year, as he yielded six hits and three runs over 2.1 innings with no walks and two strikeouts.

Hollins, Garcia, Speciale and Bickel each tallied a pair of hits as both squads totaled 10 base knocks in the opener. Bickel finished the doubleheader 5-for-7 at the plate with two runs scored.

"B.J. had a great day hitting," said Kostacopoulos. "It's great to see a senior have that kind of a day against Army. B.J., Michael (Garcia) and Steven (Soares) all played hard and grinded it out today."

The two teams will meet again tomorrow for a 1 p.m. doubleheader at Doubleday Field in West Point. Navy freshman right-hander Oliver Drake (Gardner, Mass.) is slated to go against Army's Cole White in the opener, followed with Navy freshman southpaw Yale Eckert (La Selva Beach, Calif.) matching up with Army's Drew Clothier in the nightcap.

Game 1

Score by Innings                   R  H  E
------------------------------------------
Navy................ 002 000 10 -  3 10  2
Army................ 001 000 21 -  4 10  0
------------------------------------------

Game 2

Score by Innings                    R  H  E
-------------------------------------------
Navy................ 001 500 000 -  6 10  0
Army................ 020 110 000 -  4  7  4
-------------------------------------------

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