March 18, 2016
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Navy baseball team earned its sixth-straight come-from-behind victory with a dramatic 3-2 walk-off win over Rutgers on Friday afternoon at Max Bishop Stadium. After trailing 2-0 heading into the bottom of the eighth, the Mids (13-4-1) plated three runs over their final five outs versus the Scarlet Knights (7-10). Christian Hodge (Fr., Winder, Ga.) and Robert Currie (Sr., Atlanta, Ga.) came through with the theatrics for Navy in the ninth inning as Hodge recorded the game-tying RBI before Currie drove in the game-winning run.
“This was another really good game,” exclaimed head coach Paul Kostacopoulos. “Whenever you can come back and get a walk-off win it’s always exciting. Harkening back to yesterday, we got production from a lot of different people. We got a big pinch-hit from Scott Koscho in the eighth and then we got a huge pinch-hit from Christian Hodge in the ninth. We had a lot of guys finding ways to help us win.”
In a well-played, crisp ball game, both teams’ offenses were fairly contained by strong starting pitching. Rutgers’ Howie Brey, the Scarlet Knights’ three-time Opening Day starter, silenced the Navy bats for seven innings, while George Coughlin (Jr., Arvada, Colo.) allowed just two runs on three total hits over 6.1 innings pitched. The junior right-hander struck out six Scarlet Knights over his start.
“The pitching today was outstanding,” said Kostacopoulos. “George was really good, he was locating and wasn’t giving them much to hit. He did a really good job against a Big Ten team. Andrew Bartek came in during a high-pressure, tight situation and got out of the jam that we needed him too. His success in that spot gave us a chance to win. Our pitchers did a really good job.”
In the first matchup of Navy and Rutgers on the baseball diamond since 1954, the Scarlet Knights took an early 1-0 lead over the Mids in the top of the second inning as Milo Freeman connected off a Coughlin offering for a wind-aided home run near the right field foul pole.
Navy was constantly pestering Brey and Rutgers with singles in each inning from the second through the fifth. In all four instances, the Mids were never able to get a runner past second base.
With the score still at a 1-0 count through six innings, the Scarlet Knights got to Coughlin for a one-out walk and then a double by Mike Martinez to make it a 2-0 game. Down by a pair of runs, Bartek was called out the bullpen for his second outing in three days. After throwing 3.2-scoreless innings on Wednesday versus Buffalo, the right-handed pitcher came in with a one out and a man on second. In quick succession, Bartek struck out the first batter he faced before forcing a weak ground ball for the third out.
Bartek shut out the Rutgers the rest of the way as he finished with a final line of 2.2 innings of no-hit, two-strikeout ball.
With the Scarlet Knights’ offense minimized, it was time for the Mids to dial up some more late-inning magic. One day after coming back from a 5-4 deficit versus Towson, Navy was unfazed by the two-run hole that it found itself in before the bottom of the eighth inning. A pinch-hit double by Scott Koscho (Fr., Trafford, Pa.) began the rally in the eighth as he led off with a hard line drive to the center field wall. After Koscho was pinch-run for by Ben McGrath (So., Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.), Sean Trent (Sr., Sorrento, Fla.) came through with a two-out single through the left side of the infield.
Now down just one run at 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Adrian Chinnery (Jr., Wilmington, Del.) led off the game-winning stretch of plays with a single to center field. After he was bunted into scoring position by Leland Saile (Jr., Land O’Lakes, Fla.), Hodge was called up to take the pinch-hit at bat. The freshman backup catcher, lined the second pitch he saw from Rutgers’ reliever, Reed Shuttle into center field to score Chinnery. Hodge moved up two bases after his single as he advanced on a wild throw that made its way to the backstop. Just 90 feet away from scoring the winning run, Currie calmly stroked a single right up the middle, past the outstretched hand of the Scarlet Knights’ final reliever, Max Herrmann to plate Hodges.
“That’s just what Currie does,” said Kostacopoulos about Currie’s walk-off hit. “He’s always been such a consistent player over his four years for us so nothing he does surprises me.”
In the 3-2 walk-off victory, the Mids outhit the Scarlet Knights, 9-3. Two singles by Stephen Born (So., Strafford, Pa.) led a group of eight different Navy batters with hits on the afternoon.
Bartek earned his third win of the season with his 2.2 innings of scoreless work. Shuttle took the loss for Rutgers with both runs in the ninth being credited to the right-hander.
Navy will turn its attention to NJIT for the final two days of spring break action. Beginning on Saturday, the Mids and Highlanders are scheduled to play one game on Saturday at 2 p.m. and two on Sunday as part of a 12 p.m. doubleheader.