Baseball season is now in full swing as all three service academy teams have taken the diamond and competed as we bring February to a close and look forward to warmer weather at the ballpark this spring.
Navy (6-1) Sweeps Air Force (1-6) in Annapolis:
This past week saw Navy and Air Force square off in Annapolis in a three-game series that was originally scheduled to be played as part of the Freedom Classic in Kinston, NC. However, because of a mix of rain and snow throughout the week, the game was moved to a home series for Navy, as they welcomed the Falcons to Annapolis for the first time ever.
Navy came into the series sitting at 3-1. Their opening weekend series against Georgetown saw them drop the opener 16-6. Three 3-run homers were the difference for the Hoyas as they got to the Navy pitching staff for multiple big innings throughout the contest. The Mids would bounce back the next two days to win the series by scores of 6-2 and 6-3. On Saturday, Navy was behind for much of the afternoon before a three-run homer from Christian Policelli put the Mids on top for good in the bottom of the seventh. After walking nine batters on Friday, the Navy pitching staff only walked one and struck out 12 to seal the victory. Sunday was more of the same, as a 1-1 stalemate was broken open on a Jacob Williamson home run. Navy then took down Coppin State in a mid-week matchup
Air Force did not come into the game on the same hot streak, losing their final three games of an opening weekend series between Manhattan and Stetson in Florida. After knocking out Manhattan to start the season by a score of 4-3, the Falcons then dropped the next three games by a combined score of 18-3, only mustering one game per outing.
In the first game of the series between the Mids and the Falcons, Navy jumped out to an early 2-0 lead thanks to a pair of hits as well as a wild pitch. Zach Stevens, who would lead the way for Navy on the day with a 5-7 performance and 4 RBIs picked up his first run scoring hit to give Navy the 2-0 advantage. Air Force battled back in the sixth and seventh innings to tie the game at 4-4 on a pair of unearned runs. However, Navy would answer right back on a run off of a Stevens triple to put them up 5-4, which would be the final score.
After Air Force ties the game in the top of the seventh inning, Zach Stevens triples to right field to drive in his third run of the day to give Navy a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the frame! pic.twitter.com/K6QsUvH2do— Navy Baseball (@NavyBaseball) February 22, 2020
The second half of the doubleheader was a pitcher’s dual until late in the game. An RBI double from Cole Blatchford put Air Force up 1-0 in the top of the seventh, and seven innings of shutout ball from starter from Stevan Fairburn Jr. looked like it might be enough, but a Policelli single tied things up at 1 in the eighth. Then a pair of bases-loaded walks extended the lead to 3-1 in the same frame. Nathan Price of Air Force took both losses on the double header as Navy held onto win by that same score.
Sunday’s action saw a back-and-forth affair that needed extra innings to determine the result. The game was tied 2-2 until the eighth inning when Navy took a 3-2 lead on another bases-loaded walk, but Air Force was able to tie the game at 3 in the ninth with two outs. However, a Zach Biggers hit to deep center field gave the Mids the walkoff win 4-3 in 10 innings.
A lot of production coming out of the clean up spot this past week pic.twitter.com/UMpUM5BIcO— Navy Athletics (@NavyAthletics) February 24, 2020
Navy will return to action with a mid-week tilt against Delaware State before welcoming UMass to Annapolis for a series this weekend. They are now on an early season five game winning streak.
Air Force is taking on Duke as we speak, trailing 12-0 in the second as of the writing of this article. They will follow that up with a series against Army and Campbell this weekend in Fayetteville, NC.
Army (1-5) Starts Season Against Top Competition:
Army’s record so far might indicate that they are not going to have a good campaign, but that is far from the truth. In fact, they are going to be a tough out for anyone as their early season series are showing. Taking on top 20 opponents in back-to-back weekends on the road against Duke and Texas A&M, I would argue that the Black Knights more than held their own and are probably kicking themselves for not taking more than one game against ranked competition.
The very first game of the season saw Army take down #15 Duke behind a strong pitching performance from Logan Smith. He threw seven innings of one hit ball, recording 10 strikeouts along the way, as Army held on for a 2-1 win to start their 2020 season. The Saturday contest is one the Black Knights absolutely would want back as they blew a 7-1 lead by giving up six runs between the sixth and seventh innings, only to take the lead back in the eighth and give the game away in the bottom of the ninth. Three walks in the sixth loaded the bases before a Duke grand slam. A wild pitch would be the tying run in the seventh. The Sunday finale was not as close as the Blue Devils blanked Army 7-0 behind a strong pitching performance from starter Cooper Stinson.
Army then travelled to College Station to take on the Aggies this past weekend. The first game got out of hand quickly as A&M jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first and then tacked on five more in the bottom of the sixth to pull away for a 12-3 victory. However, Saturday and Sunday proved much closer, as Army battled back from a 6-2 deficit to cut the lead to just one in the top of the eighth behind a third RBI on the day from John McKenna. Another strong pitching performance from Logan Smith shows that Army will have a top of the line guy that can go head-to-head with anyone this year.
Sunday saw a crazy game as the two teams combined for 26 runs in a wild affair that saw multiple huge innings and lead changes. A&M jumped out to a 3-0 lead but Army bounced back with runs in the second, third, and fourth innings to take a 6-3 lead. The Aggies jumped right back to tie it at 6 in the bottom of the fourth and then tacked on four more in the fifth and sixth before the Black Knights put up a five spot in the top of the seventh to lead 11-10. A&M would take the lead right back 13-11 and each team would grab a run in the eighth before the game was called due to Army reaching its travel curfew and having to return back to West Point. Tim Simoes led the way going 4-5 with 5 RBIs on the day!
Top 7th | A&M will go to the pen as the Black Knights storm back in front.— Army Baseball (@ArmyWP_Baseball) February 23, 2020
What a day for Tim Simoes. The junior is 4-5 with 5 RBIs on the afternoon #GoArmy
Army 11 | Texas A&M 10 pic.twitter.com/rHpijnmH0C
Up next, the schedule should get a little easier for Army as they take on Air Force and Campbell this weekend. The Camels could prove a solid test for Army as they have also taken on two ranked teams to open their season and won two of those four games. They currently sit at 3-4 on the year.