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Patriot League Baseball Championship Preview: #1 Navy vs. #3 Army West Point

Navy hosts service academy rival Army this weekend in a rematch of the 2018 championship.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Minnesota Twins Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

An Army-Navy baseball series may not match the social grandeur that surrounds the gridiron classic each December, but it should certainly have your attention this weekend.

You see, for the third time in the last four years, the Patriot League will be represented by either Army or Navy as the conference’s automatic qualifier to the NCAA Baseball Championship. What may be even more impressive is the fact that each team has a regional win in their last NCAA tournament appearance. Navy beat St. Mary’s in 2016 while Army upset NC State in Raleigh just last year. No matter who represents the Patriot League in June, both teams have a legitimate shot to make some noise in a regional setting this year due to some truly spectacular pitching and balanced offense at the plate.

Let’s dissect the upcoming Patriot League Championship series below:

Army Pitching

The Black Knights pitching staff has a team 3.97 ERA for the season and a 3.50 ERA in Patriot League competition. The 2018 Patriot League Tournament Champions are led by a trio of senior starters who each have a dozen or more starts in 2019. I would expect to see senior LHP Tyler Giovinco on the mound in game one, but it’s also possible that Daniel Burggraaf gets the nod. Giovinco is 8-4 on the year with an impressive 3.29 ERA. Daniel Burggraaf (5-2) boasts a lower 2.96 ERA and is the team leader in strikeouts with 78. Sam Messina has the least amount of production of the three pitchers with a 4.43 ERA and has hit 14 batters and walked 10. Although the righty has the highest ERA of the starting squad, Messina still has a win over Navy from less than one month ago.

Navy Pitching

When you read “Navy pitching” you can’t help but think of senior Noah Song (11-0). The 6’4” pitcher has a league leading 1.03 ERA, good enough for second best in the country among all pitchers and the lowest ERA for a starting pitcher in the 2019 season. Song also leads the country in strikeouts with 150 and strikeouts per 9 innings with an impressive 15.52 Ks per 9 inning average. Trey Braithwaite leads the team in saves with 10 and carries with him a low 3.00 ERA. Jared Leins (3.39 ERA) and Charlie Connolly (3.74 ERA) round up the weekend starting crew and help contribute to the Patriot League’s best team ERA (3.81).

Army Hitting

No one gets on base better in the Patriot League than junior Jacob Hurtubise (.536 obp). While the outfielder can claim supremacy by getting on the bases, he is doing it more often than not with his bat as he is also the conference leader in batting average with a .363. As if Navy doesn’t have enough to worry about when Hurtubise getting to the plate, the next highest season batting average in this championship series goes to 2018 Tournament MVP, Anthony Giachin with a .330 avg. Giachin leads the Black Knights in RBIs (61) and total bases (111). Trey Martin is the team’s power hitter responsible for a team-leading seven home-runs and carries the third highest batting average (.313) on the team. West Point currently maintains the second best team batting average in the conference with a .274 average.

Navy Hitting

If Army has the second best batting average in the Patriot League, who has the best? By a difference of .001, the Midshipmen can claim the team batting average title with a combined .275 average. Navy is led by freshman Zach Stevens (.324) at the plate from a pure batting average standpoint, but the Mids success depends heavily on Christian Hodge. The senior leads the team in runs (45), RBIs (52) and home-runs (12) which earned him Patriot League Player of the Year honors. Junior Zach Biggers has contributed the most hits on the year with 63. Also keep an eye on Liam Lowery who is second on the team in home-runs (7) and finds himself in the top ten of nearly every Patriot League hitting category.

2019 Regular Season Results:

Navy has claimed their second regular season title in a row and is looking to avenge last season’s championship sweep when they fell to Army in Annapolis in 2018. The Black Knights have the regular season advantage this year by winning three of the five match-ups. No matter what the final outcome may be, this series should certainly have your attention this weekend.

March 24 (in West Point): Navy wins 5-2 led by Song’s 13 strikeouts.

March 24 (in West Point): Army wins 5-2 after a four-run second inning. Hurtubise went 2 for 2 with 2 RBIs.

April 20 (in Annapolis): Navy wins 3-0 and Song gives up only one hit.

April 20 (in Annapolis): Army wins 11-3. Andre Walden goes 3 for 5 with 4 RBIs for the Black Knights.

April 21 (in Annapolis): Army wins 7-5 thanks in part to a combined 13 strikeouts. Messina picks up the win.

2019 Championship Schedule:

Game One: Friday, May 17, 7:00 PM EST

Game Two: Saturday, May 18, 2:00 PM EST

Game Three (if needed): Sunday, May 19, 2:00 PM EST

All games will be streamed on the Patriot League Network via the Stadium app.