The Army Black Knights (15-12, 6-2 PL) defeated the Navy Midshipmen (14-15, 7-5 PL) in a pair of low-scoring games during a Patriot League doubleheader at Johnson Stadium at Doubleday Field on Monday afternoon. After walking off the first game, 2-1, in the 10th inning, the Black Knights secured a 5-0 win over the Midshipmen in a nightcap that was shortened to seven innings due to the opener’s extra-inning outcome.
In the first game, it was a pitchers’ duel that went to extra innings in the scheduled seven-inning contest. Both teams went scoreless in the first two innings, and Army scratched across one run on a Kevin Dubrule double. However, a second runner was thrown out at home, allowing the Mids to stay in the game. Navy then tied the game with a game-tying triple from Brock Murtha, sending the game into extra innings. Although the Mids tried to push across the go-ahead run across by putting runners on base in each of the three extra innings, they could not score. Navy lost the game 2-1 in the 10th inning due to a throwing error.
Army pitcher Mike Ruggieri only went four innings in the first game despite allowing just four hits and no runs. Patrick Melampy earned the win by pitching six innings of relief and striking out eight Mids while surrendering Army’s lone run on five hits. Matthew Shirah got the no-decision after lasting 6.1 innings and allowing one run on five hits and no walks, while Nolan Jorgenson suffered the loss, allowing just one hit and one unearned run over 3.1 innings and striking out two Black Knights out of the bullpen.
In the nightcap, the Mids could not match the offensive output of the Black Knights, who were led by Sam Ruta, who powered the Army lineup with four RBI and two extra-base hits. Robbie Buecker pitched a seven-inning shutout, allowing just four hits, with Hudson Lehnertz tallying the lone Navy extra-base hit on a sixth-inning double.
Although Navy’s starter Thomas Russell struck out five Army batters in his 4.1 innings of work, the Black Knights finally got to the Navy righty in the bottom of the third after Addison Ainsworth walked and Doug Berg reached on an error, setting up Ruta for a three-run blast over the right-field wall. Buecker kept the Navy bats dormant for the first 11 hitters faced until Alex Smith singled in the fourth. Ruta got his starter more support in the fifth when he doubled in Ainsworth while Lehnertz was left stranded after roping his double in the top of the sixth. Army added its fifth run of the game in the home half of the sixth after a throwing error on Ellis’ single allowed Braden Golinski to advance home.
Buecker scored his third win of the season with the shutout, striking out three while walking two, while Russell got the loss after allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits and Reece Early relieved him by giving up one unearned run on two hits in 1.2 innings pitched.
Army has now trimmed Navy’s record in the all-time series to 129-125. Shirah has now either broken or matched his career-high for strikeouts in each of his last three starts. Jorgenson’s 3.1 innings pitched matched his season-high from March 12 at Princeton. Russell has now struck out five-or-more batters in six of his seven starts this season. With two hits in the opener and another in the nightcap, Alex Smith has now reached base safely in 17 consecutive games, while Lehnertz also extended his on-base streak to 16 contests. Smith leads the team with a .429 average and 18 hits in league play.
After the game, Navy head coach Paul Kostacopoulos commented on the tough day for the Midshipmen. “That first game was just a really tight game, coming up on the short end, 2-1, but almost all day we just couldn’t get a lot of offense going. They didn’t have a ton of offense either, but at the same time, it was just tough to hit today. Whenever you lose two, it’s going to be a tough day, especially to Army.”
Despite the loss, Navy remains in good standing with a 7-5 record in the Patriot League. Kostacopoulos acknowledged the challenges of playing four games on a weekend, especially with the added travel. “It’s always tough to play four games on a weekend, especially this weekend where we’re at Holy Cross and at Army, so it’s a lot of travel. We were able to survive it, though. We’re 7-5 in league, and now we get a little bit more of a baseball-like weekend in the sense that we’ll be playing a three-game series. The league is tight right now, everyone’s been bunched together, and we got a lot of baseball left to play.”
Navy will host Coppin State on Wednesday, April 5, at Terwilliger Brothers Field at Max Bishop Stadium. First pitch is set for 5 p.m. The Midshipmen will look to bounce back from the doubleheader sweep and continue their strong season in the Patriot League.