LEWISBURG, Pa. – Navy took both ends of a doubleheader from the Bucknell baseball team on Sunday, winning the opener 5-1 before claiming a 12-6 verdict in a marathon nightcap. After the Bison won 10-2 in the series opener a day earlier, Navy rallied to take the final three games of a four-game series between the top two teams in the Patriot League preseason poll.
This was the lone Patriot League action of the weekend, so Navy (17-5, 3-1 PL) takes a two-game lead over Bucknell (4-14, 1-3 PL) in the standings. The Midshipmen have now won 10 of 11, with the only loss in that stretch coming a day earlier, when the Bison bats had a big day against Navy ace Noah Song.
The two teams will meet again in a single game in Annapolis on Apr. 18, as part of the Patriot League’s new scheduling format. Teams will play each other five times this season for a total of 25 league games.
Bucknell has two mid-week games this week – at Penn State on Tuesday and home against Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday – before hosting Army West Point and Holy Cross for doubleheaders next Saturday and Sunday.
Game 1 – Navy 5, Bucknell 1 (7-inning game)
Game-one starter Jack Grabek overcame a shaky start to pitch well through the middle innings, but the Bison could not come up with the key hit while the game was within reach. After a walk, single and wild pitch to start the game, Navy scored a run on Jacob Williamson sacrifice fly and another on a throwing error.
Grabek settled in and retired seven straight and 13 of 16 while posting five straight scoreless innings. In the meantime, the Bison got on the board in the bottom of the fourth when Luke Johnson led off with a walk, and two outs later scored on a double up the right-center alley from JohnPaul Bell.
In the third and fifth innings, the Bison advanced runners to third with one out but came away empty both times as Navy hurler Andrew Sauer worked out of trouble.
After another leadoff walk to Johnson in the sixth, lanky closer Jared Leins relieved Sauer and recorded the final six outs for his second save of the series. He benefitted from three insurance runs in the top of the seventh.
Logan Knowles had the big blow with a two-run triple into the right-field corner, and Williamson drove in another run with a two-out single.
Game 2 – Navy 12, Bucknell 6 (9-inning game)
The series finale lasted three hours, 37 minutes and featured a combined 370 pitches, 15 walks and four hit batsmen. The Bison led 2-1 after three innings and scored runs in five straight frames, but Navy scored four in the fourth and three more in the fifth to take control.
Bucknell piled up 11 hits and drew nine walks in the game, but 10 of the 11 hits were singles, and the Bison left 13 runners on base. Meanwhile, eight of Navy’s 13 hits were doubles, including a team-record-tying four from Liam Lowery.
Johnson, Tyler Wincig and Keifer Rawlings all had two hits for Bucknell. Wincig also drew two walks, and Luke Hartman reached base four times with a single and three walks. Lowery went 4-for-5 with the four doubles and four runs scored, while Knowles had three hits and scored three times for the Midshipmen.
Trailing 1-0 after a Michael Coritz bloop double that snuck inside the chalk down the right-field line, Bucknell drew even in the bottom of the second when Rawlings made a good read on a pitch in the dirt and scored from third base.
The Bison grabbed their first lead of the afternoon when Bell singled home Toso in the bottom of the third, but Navy answered with a big four-run rally. Evan Lowery’s two-out, two-run single was the big blow.
Bucknell closed within 5-4 with a pair in the bottom of the fourth. Hartman and Madigan opened the inning with singles, then moved up a base on an errant pickoff throw from Tommy Goodridge. Chuckie Scales plated Hartman with a ground ball, and Johnson added an RBI single.
Navy scored three times after two were out in the fifth. Knowles knocked in a run with a double, and then two more scored on a throwing error.
Bucknell had a golden opportunity to get back in it when Navy reliever Jack Ferguson walked the first three batters in the fifth, but Colin Brady came out of the bullpen and limited the damage. Madigan belted his first pitch into deep left-center, but it hung up in the wind and went for a sac fly. Brady then got a strikeout with runners at the corners and a ground out to escape the jam.
The Bison pulled within 8-6 in the sixth after Johnson led off with a double and scored on a two-out single by Rawlings. Two walks loaded the bases, but Brady made a nice defensive play to knock down Madigan’s sharp grounder up the middle to finish the inning.
Navy went on two score two in the seventh and two more in the eighth, and Sante Grossi tossed three scoreless innings to earn the save.