Opening weekend for service academy baseball programs had its fair share of ups and downs, but each program displayed some potential for their 2019 campaign. Army took LSU to the wire, the Air Force pitching staff combined for two shutouts, while the Navy pitching staff fared even better. Let’s take a look at a breakdown for each team’s season opening weekend.
It was an emotional seesaw-like weekend for the Black Knights in Louisiana. Their opening weekend didn’t earn the “roller coaster” cliche descriptor as I am still not sure West Point has recovered from their heartbreak against the nation’s number one team - the LSU Tigers. Let’s dissect:
The “See” (or the rise, if you will)
Heading into the bottom of the ninth inning in their second game of the weekend, West Point had outscored opponents by a combined score of 22-5. This included a record-setting 17-2 thumping over service academy rival Air Force on opening day, thanks in large part to performances from Anthony Giachin and Jacob Hurtubise, and a 5-3 ninth-inning lead over LSU the following day. That’s right, Patriot League juggernaut Army-West Point was not only standing toe-to-toe with perennial national powerhouse, the LSU Tigers, but was three outs away from upsetting the SEC squad in front of 12,000 fans - on Military Appreciation weekend nonetheless! Then it all came to a screeching halt.
M9th | The Black Knights load the bases with two outs but can’t bring home anymore runs. To the bottom of the ninth we go!— Army Baseball (@ArmyWP_Baseball) February 16, 2019
Army 5, #1 LSU 3
The “Saw” (the fall)
Sam Messina started the ninth inning in an effort to get the save and instead gathered the loss with 0.0 innings pitched. Messina walked his first two batters before giving up the walk-off home-run to Cade Beloso, who was playing in his first ever collegiate game, securing the 6-5 win for the Tigers. There were no signs of an immediate rebound for the Black Knights as they concluded their weekend with a loss against UL-Monroe. Plagued by three errors and only eight hits, Army fell to the War Hawks 10-3. This is a War Hawks squad that finished 23-31 last year and a 10-20 mark in the Sun Belt - not exactly the cream of the crop (okay, that will be the last cliche).
Jacob Hurtubise - .600; six hits, six runs
Anthony Giachin - .429; six hits, 11 RBIs (Patriot League Player of the Week)
Daniel Burggraaf - 1.42 ERA; five Ks
Four game series this weekend (2/22-2/24) at Longwood
Air Force (2-2)
You want a full roller coaster type weekend? Well, you need to look no further than to Air Force’s clubhouse over the past few days. The Falcons opened the season with a crushing 17-2 defeat against Army (I promise I won’t mention it again) but managed to come back and win a pitcher’s duel against UL-Monroe the following day. Matt Hargreaves and Jake Gilbert contributed for the shutout giving up just six hits in the Falcons’ 1-0 win.
Now, with a little bit of momentum heading into the final game of LSU’s Military Appreciation weekend series, the Falcons looked to Ethan Nichols to attack the hard-hitting weekend hosts. Well, the Tigers had other plans and Nichols only lasted 1.2 innings and gave up nine runs on nine hits to put the Falcons into an early (and deep) deficit. For the second time in three days the Air Force pitching staff gave up 17 runs in the eventual 17-5 loss to LSU.
The Falcons were not going to head home on a low note, however; No, they wanted to make the most of their trip to the Bayou State and scheduled an extra game on the back-end of the weekend against Southern University. The Falcons pitching staff came alive and contributed for their second shutout of the weekend with a 13-0 win. 2018 College Home Run Derby champion Nic Ready contributed five RBIs in the game, which included two hits for extra bases.
So, yeah when you give up 17 runs, then zero, then 17 again, then zero again - that is deserving of the “roller coaster” title. Consistency will be the buzzword in Colorado Springs.
Colby Brown - .455; five hits, two runs
Nic Ready - .294; five hits, six RBIs
Matt Hargreaves - 0.00 ERA; 6.0 IP
Freedom Classic (2/22-2/24) against Navy (three game series) in Kinston, NC and a 2/25 contest at ECU.
While Army and Air Force had their ups and downs, Navy struggled to start their 2019 campaign. The Midshipmen failed to get the bats going this weekend and went 0-3 against Gardner Webb, losing all three games by a combined four runs. Although Navy managed a ninth-inning rally against Gardner Webb on opening day the Midshipmen ended up falling in extra innings against the Bulldogs and actually gave up another late lead in the second game of the series. After having a 3-2 lead through the top of the 7th inning, Navy gave up three runs in the final two frames to eventually lose 5-3.
Unfortunately, the disappointment didn’t stop there as the Mids failed to take advantage of a stellar performance by pitcher Charlie Connolly who gave up just four hits in seven innings in the 1-0 loss to close the series. In the loss, Navy recorded just six hits and left 10 players on base. What was the only run conceded? That was the result of a wild pitch.
It isn’t all doom and gloom for the Midshipmen though, as the pitching staff has a combined 2.84 ERA and averages nearly nine strikeouts a game. If Navy can get their bats going, they may just be able to hang with anybody.
Christian Hodge - .333; three hits
Noah Song - 0.00 ERA; 5.2 IP (Patriot League Pitcher of the Week)
Charlie Connolly - 1.29 ERA; 7.0 IP
Freedom Classic (2/22-2/24) against Air Force (three game series) in Kinston, NC