ANNAPOLIS, Md. - It took three high-pressure wins at a hostile environment but the Army baseball team earned the star.
Army scored four runs in the first inning and relied on solid pitching and stout defense to beat Navy, 5-4, Sunday in the second game of a Patriot League doubleheader at Max Bishop Stadium.
Army lost the first game to Navy and then rebounded to win three straight to claim the series and the coveted star.
The win by the baseball team also allowed Army to win the overall star series against Navy with a 12-11 mark. Army also won the overall series against their service academy rivals, 18-13. The last time Army won the Star series was in 1995-96 and the last time Army won the overall series was in 2004-05.
The baseball squad pulled off three straight wins to make all that happen in front of large crowds in Annapolis, Md. Navy won the first game of the series 4-0 before Army rolled off 2-1, 1-0 and 5-4 victories.
"Winning the star means a lot to our players, to West Point and those representing the Army and that’s why it means so much," said Army interim head coach Matt Reid. "That’s who we play for, everyone who represents West Point, the Army and the baseball program."
Army, already assured of hosting at least a first-round playoff game, will host Lehigh May 10-11 in a best-of-three series in the semifinals of the Patriot League Tournament. Navy will travel to Bucknell in the other semifinal.
The Black Knights improved to 31-13 overall and 14-5 in the Patriot League, while Navy slid to 23-26 overall and 9-11 in league contests.
Army will have a chance to win a share of the Patriot League regular season championship when it hosts Lehigh Monday at 6 p.m. at Doubleday Field. Army and Lehigh played three games during the regular season but rains forced postponement of the fourth.
In Sunday’s second game of the doubleheader, Army collected 10 hits, paced by three from Daniel Cortes and three from Jacob Page.
Brock Davidson threw 6.1 innings as Army’s starting pitcher before leaving with what appeared to be an injury. Davidson scattered five hits, struck out three and walked one. Julian Larimer relieved Davidson and pitched 2.1 innings with one walk and one strikeout. Johnny Griffith entered with two outs in the bottom of the eighth threw 1.1 innings of scoreless relief.
Army got off to a great start in its first at-bat. Jon Crucitti singled on the first pitch of the game and Cortes singled on the first offering he saw. Mark McCants was hit by a pitch to load the bases after just four pitches. Patrick Mescher was hit by a pitch to force in Crucitti. One out later, Alex Jensen roped a single to center to score Cortes and McCants, ending the day of Navy starting pitcher Kyle Condry after six hitters.
Andrew Bartek came on to pitch for Navy and Page lined a single to plate Mescher for a 4-0 Army lead after its first at-bat.
"The guys were locked in early," said Reid. "We had a two-out hit when it looked like we might only get one run and that was key. The guys were ready to play."
Davidson helped his own cause, making a great play on a bunt in the first inning for the second out of the game.
Navy cut its deficit in half in the bottom of the second inning when David Norman and Robert Currie hit run-scoring singles to make it a 4-2 contest.
Navy had runners on first and second with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning. Catcher Ben Smith threw a runner out at third trying to advance on a pitch in the dirt and Larimer got a fly ball to end the frame and keep the two-run Army advantage.
Army extended its lead in the top of the seventh inning. With one out, McCants and Mescher connected on back-to-back singles. With two outs, Jensen reached on a two-base error and McCants hustled to score for a 5-2 advantage.
Larimer induced a 6-4-3 double play to wipe out a leadoff Navy single in the seventh and closed the frame with a strikeout.
Navy got within a run in the eighth inning when Leland Saile doubled in a pair of runs with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning. Griffith came on and got a ground ball to end the inning with Army leading 5-4.
Mescher made a great play to cut down the lead runner in the bottom of the ninth and Griffith ended the game with a strikeout to claim on the win.