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May 10th, 2009

Army Advances To PLCS

Joey Henshaw. Photo: AAC

WEST POINT – Kirk Porter fired eight shutout innings and Joey Henshaw and Ben Koenigsfeld homered to power a six-run fourth inning as Army blasted Holy Cross 11-0 in the decisive third game of a Patriot League Tournament best-of-three semifinal series, Sunday afternoon at Doubleday Field.

With the rousing victory, Army advanced to next weekend’s Patriot League Championship Series, where the second-seeded Black Knights will host fourth-seeded Lafayette at Doubleday Field. The Leopards drilled top-seeded Bucknell 10-2 in the decisive third game of those teams’ Patriot League Tournament semifinal series, Sunday in Lewisburg.

After posting a 5-1 win against Holy Cross in the first game of the series on Saturday, Army let a 3-1 lead slip away in the nightcap to force Sunday’s decisive game.

Holy Cross starter Bobby Holmes, who held Army scoreless in relief over the final three innings of Saturday’s second contest, kept the Black Knights’ high-powered offense in check over the first two innings on Sunday. But Army finally broke through against the hard-throwing right-hander in the bottom of the third, scoring three runs on three hits to grab a 3-0 lead.

Andy Ernesto ignited Army’s offense by slapping a one-out single to center field. Clint Moore wasted little time delivering Ernesto, ripping a screaming line drive off the base of the fence in left-center field for an RBI double. Henshaw walked and Kevin McKague grounded out to move both runners into scoring position. Koenigsfeld then smacked a clutch two-out, two-run double to the gap in right-center field, stretching Army’s lead to 3-0.

The Black Knights put the game away in the fourth inning, chasing Holmes by loading the base on an infield single by J.T. Watkins, a hit batsman and a walk by Ernesto. Matt Croglio relieved Holmes and surrendered a sacrifice fly to Moore. With runners at first and third and one out, Henshaw lined an opposite-field liner that just cleared the fence in left-center field. It marked Henshaw’s 11th home run of the season and pushed Army’s lead to 7-0. McKague reached on an infield single and Koenigsfeld promptly launched a two-run homer to left field that extended Army’s advantage to 9-0.

That was more than enough offensive support for Porter, who sailed through eight solid innings of work. The sophomore right-hander carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning, retiring 12 of the first 14 batters he faced. He allowed just two base runners to reach scoring position and did not permit a single Holy Cross base runner to reach third base.

The Crusaders placed two runners on base in the same inning just twice, but Porter worked free of both mini-jams and departed the game after eight innings with Army in complete control. Henshaw came on to fire a scoreless ninth, teaming with Porter on the shutout. The duo combined to retire the final 10 Crusaders in order.

It marked the fourth shutout in which Porter has participated this year. He yielded just five hits (all singles), while striking out two and walking one on Sunday, boosting his seasonal record to 6-3.

Army (31-18) added single tallies in the fifth and eighth innings, scoring on a leadoff home run by Kyle Fleming in the fifth and an RBI single by Watkins in the eighth.

The Black Knights, who mustered just one extra-base hits in 17 innings against Holy Cross during Saturday’s doubleheader, returned to their power-hitting ways to advance past Holy Cross Sunday, registering three doubles and three home runs en route to the convincing victory.

Moore went 3-for-4 with one run scored and two runs batted in, while McKague, Koenigsfeld, J.P. Polchinski and Watkins finished with two hits apiece to pace the Black Knights’ 15-hit attack.

Army, which captured a share of its fourth regular season Patriot League championship in six years, earned its sixth Patriot League Championship series berth with the win. The Black Knights have squared off against Lafayette in two previous Patriot League Championship Series, defeating the Leopards in 2004, while falling to Lafayette in 2007. The Black Knights will be in search of their fifth conference championship overall. The winner of the Patriot League Championship Series will earn an automatic berth in the NCAA Regionals. Army has earned NCAA Regional invitations in 2000, 2004 and 2005 previously.

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