LEWISBURG, Pa. – With 12 complete games, six shutouts and the program’s best ERA in nearly 40 years, the Bucknell baseball pitching staff was a strength of the Bison en route to a Patriot League regular-season title. Bucknell opened Patriot League postseason play Saturday at Depew Field and the bats carried it to a sweep of Navy in the best-of-three semifinal series. The top-seeded Bison totaled 23 runs and 26 hits in 15-6 and 8-4 victories over the fourth-seeded Mids.
Bucknell (27-17-1) has advanced to the Patriot League Championship Series and will host either second-seeded Army (May 19-20) or third-seeded Lehigh (May 16-17) in a best-of-three series to determine the league’s automatic NCAA berth. Army and Lehigh will play the rubber game of their semifinal series Sunday afternoon at West Point.
Saturday’s series win marked the Bison’s first postseason series victory since they claimed the 2010 Patriot League title at Holy Cross. Bucknell has now won nine games in a row against Navy (23-28), including all six meetings this year. The Bison’s 27 victories are their most since posting a 30-win campaign in 2008.
Interestingly, Bucknell and Navy both had 26 hits in 76 at bats in Saturday’s two games, but the Bison were much more efficient, outscoring the Mids 23-10, and posting six multi-run innings.
Rob Krentzman led Bucknell with five hits in the doubleheader, while he was one of three Bison along with Joe Ogren and Alex O’Neill to drive in five runs. Anthony Gingerelli was 4-for-7 with five runs scored, while Ogren (3-for-7), Brett Smith (3-for-9) and O’Neill (3-for-10) each collected three hits on the day.
Bucknell opened Saturday’s twinbill with their best offensive showing of the season as it totaled a season-high 15 runs and equaled its season best with 16 hits. Every Bison starter had at least one hit and six different players drove in runs, led by four RBIs from Ogren and three from Krentzman.
Halfway through game one, the score was tied at 3-3, but Bucknell proceeded to score 12 unanswered runs, plating three in the fifth, four in the sixth and five more in the eighth.
A leadoff triple by Gingerelli where he slid in just ahead of the tag got things started in the fifth. Ogren followed with an RBI single for his third RBI of the contest. He later scored on a wild pitch, while Krentzman singled and later scored on a balk by Patriot League Pitcher of the Year Anthony Parenti (8-3), who entered the game with a 0.93 ERA, but gave up nine hits and six runs in five innings of work.
Bucknell sent eight hitters to the plate in the sixth and four of them scored. Ogren picked up his fourth RBI when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Two batters later Krentzman followed with a bases-clearing, three-run double, breaking the game open and giving the Bison a 10-3 lead.
Bucknell batted around in the eighth thanks to three doubles, two singles and a walk. Four of the five runs in the frame were scored with two outs.
Navy was able to tally three runs in the top of the ninth to cut into what had ballooned to a 12-run deficit.
Bryson Hough (7-3) got the game one win for Bucknell. He pitched 5.1 innings and gave up eight hits and three runs. Normal starter Xavier Hammond came out of the bullpen and did not allow a run or hit in 2.2 innings of work. He followed that with a scoreless ninth inning in game two, clinching the sweep for the Bison.
In game two, Navy outhit the Bison 16-10, but Bucknell never trailed and led by a 6-0 score halfway through the nine-inning affair.
After taking a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning, the Bison plated five runs in the fifth. The rally started when Smith was hit on the foot on an 0-and-2 count with one out. Gingerelli followed with a single, while Ogren then posted an RBI single to make it 2-0. Jon Mayer then bounced what appeared to be a double-play ball to second, but Brad Borosak misplayed it, loading the bases for Krentzman, who knocked home two runs with another bases-loaded hit. All five of his RBIs on the day came with the bases loaded.
O’Neill capped the scoring in the fifth with a two-run triple to right center that a diving Robert Currie was unable to come up with.
Bucknell scored two important insurance runs in the top of the eighth when Mayer drove home Smith and Gingerelli with a two-out single to give the Bison an 8-3 advantage.
Navy got one run back in the bottom of the eighth and had the bases loaded with Patriot League Player of the Year Kash Manzelli at the plate. Reliever Mike Castellani got him to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
The Mids again loaded the bases in the ninth, bringing the tying run to the plate, but Hammond got Borosak to fly out to center to end the game and clinch the series for the Bison.
Dan Weigel (6-4) earned his sixth consecutive win as he improved to 6-0 against Patriot League opponents this year. The First Team All-Patriot League selection scattered 12 hits over 5.1 innings and yielded just three runs. Tom Hrabchak, Castellani, Tucker Rekucki and Hammond combined to pitch the final 3.2 innings, yielding just one run.
Bucknell touched Navy starter Luke Gillingham (2-6) for six hits and six runs over the first 4.2 innings before the Mids brought in Stephen Moore. Moore was solid in relief, yielded just four hits and two runs.
Saturday’s doubleheader sweep marked Bucknell’s seventh this year. The Bison have now won 19 of their last 25 games and will carry a three-game winning streak into the Patriot League Championship Series.