WEST POINT -
three-run homer capped Army's four-run seventh inning uprising as the
top-seeded Black Knights defeated second-seeded Holy Cross, 8-4, to
clinch the Patriot League title in the completion of a suspended game
Tuesday afternoon at Doubleday Field.
The Black Knights, who have won four conference championships in
the last nine years and six overall, secured the Patriot League's
automatic berth into the upcoming NCAA Regionals. Army (41-13) will
learn of its postseason destination on Monday, May 28, when the field of
64 is unveiled.
"I'm very proud of what this group has accomplished," said Army head coach Joe Sottolano. "Our captains, J.T. Watkins and Zach Price,
are two of the finest I've ever had the privilege to coach. We're
nothing without the leadership of our senior class, and that starts with
our captains. This team will go down as one of the toughest teams that
I've ever coached, and that's saying a lot because we've had a lot of
great teams come through here."
Army and Holy Cross split the first two games of the PLCS, but
the third and decisive contest was suspended on Monday evening due to
rain with the score tied at 4-all in the top of the seventh inning.
Gunnar Carroll (2-0) came on to begin the seventh when play resumed on Tuesday and pitched three scoreless innings to earn the win.
"I was thankful to have the opportunity to go out there and
contribute to the win," said Carroll. "It's an exciting time for
everyone. It means a lot because this is such a hard-working group of
guys. To share this with them means a lot to me. It's especially
exciting for the seniors, since this is their last go-round."
Zach Price went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and one RBI to pace Army offensively. Daniel CortesKevin McKagueJ.T. Watkins and Harold Earls each finished with two hits apiece to help ignite the Black Knights' 12-hit attack.
The Black Knights' offense wasted little time giving Carroll all
the run support he would need, scoring four times in the bottom of the
Price and Cortes hit consecutive one-out singles and McKague was intentionally walked to load the bases for Mark McCants,
who lifted a sacrifice fly to deep right center field to deliver what
proved to be the game-winning run. Watkins followed by crushing an
off-speed pitch over the fence in left field. The three-run shot gave
Army a commanding four-run cushion.
came up in a key situation and jumped on the first pitch to drive in
that first run," said Sottolano. "Then, J.T. hit a big home run for us.
We played to win all weekend long, and my hat goes off to our guys. Our
attitude and our belief was the difference in these ballgames."
Carroll faced the minimum in the seventh and eighth innings,
before allowing two base runners in the top of the ninth. He was able to
get Stephen Wadsworth to ground into a fielder's choice to Earls at
third base, though, to end the game and set off a frenzied celebration
near the pitcher's mound.
"I just feel lucky to be a part of this team," said Watkins.
"These guys go out there every single day looking to compete and win
ballgames, and that's exactly what we've done all year. It's just great
to be a part of it."
Army had to rally from a 4-2 deficit to knot the score at 4-all
with a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, before the game
was suspended on Monday. A run-scoring base hit by Earls and an RBI
groundout byCody Murtle made it 4-4 in the bottom of the sixth inning, before the skies opened up.
Holy Cross (33-22) got on the scoreboard in the top of the third, scoring an unearned run on Mike Ahmed's RBI single.
Army came back with two runs in the bottom of the third to take a
2-1 advantage. Price and McKague both came through with run-scoring
singles to provide the Black Knights' runs.
Holy Cross tied it up at 2-all in the fourth inning when Patrick
Puentes homered leading off the frame. The Crusaders then built a 4-2
cushion with single runs in the fifth and sixth innings.
Carroll was able to hold Holy Cross without a hit over the final three frames.
Brandon Cipolla went 2-for-4 with two runs scored to lead the Crusaders. Ahmed finished 1-for-4 with two RBI.
Donny Murray (4-1) took the loss for Holy Cross after giving up
base hits to Price and Cortes to open the seventh inning. The Crusaders
used three different pitchers during the seventh, and all three were
charged with at least one earned run.
Army will be back in action on Friday, June 1, when the Black Knights take part in the NCAA Regionals.