CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — — Just short of two weeks ago, the Navy baseball team was celebrating the pinnacle of a season in which it won the Patriot League title after a last-place showing the previous year. On Saturday, the satisfaction from that improbable reversal continued to uplift the Midshipmen in the immediate aftermath of a 6-1 loss to East Carolina, allowing for optimism even after elimination from the NCAA tournament.
Before an announced 4,041 at Davenport Field, the Midshipmen had their season end in the losers bracket of the Charlottesville Region, a day after falling to top-ranked Virginia, 6-0. Just as Navy encountered impeccable pitching against the Cavaliers, it faced more of the same from Pirates ace Seth Maness.
The senior right-hander scattered five hits and allowed no earned runs, and his primary support came courtesy of freshman Chase McDonald's first career grand slam that provided the final runs. Navy starter Sam Long, meantime, allowed two runs over six innings, but he walked five before giving way to Preston Gainey, who surrendered McDonald's shot to left center in the seventh.
"There's not much more left in these guys," Navy coach Paul Kostacopoulos said. "They gave everything they've got, and as a coach, all you can do is have gratitude for that. I don't look back and say, 'What if this, what if that?' I know in the big picture, we hit it."
Navy (33-25-1) scored its lone run in the ninth when right fielder Andrew Hahn's sacrifice allowed senior catcher Jeff Bland to score from third.
Junior center fielder Alex Azor led the Midshipmen by going 2-for-4 and was the only player with multiple hits against Maness, who improved to 10-3 this season.
Navy didn't have the luxury of throwing its most accomplished starter because right-hander Wes Olson was in Indianapolis getting married.
So the Midshipmen called on Long, one of six seniors largely responsible for the team's turnaround.