Black Knights Handle UMBC, 9-2

Harold Earls

Harold Earls

March 3, 2012

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BALTIMORE, Md. - Harold Earls went 4-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored, and Chris Rowley struck out a career-high 10 batters over eight strong innings as the Army baseball team defeated UMBC, 9-2, in a non-league contest Saturday evening at Baseball Factory Field.

Kevin McKague and J.T. Watkins combined to go 6-for-10 with three doubles to help pace Army's 15-hit attack. Zach Price also collected a pair of hits and was on base four times. Seven of the Black Knights' nine starters registered at least one base hit in the contest.

Rowley, the reigning Patriot League Pitcher of the Week, turned in his second straight dominant outing. The junior righty, who retired the last 13 batters he faced, yielded just two runs on five hits in eight innings of work. Rowley's 10 strikeouts surpass his previous career high of eight, which he established versus Holy Cross last season. The Duluth, Ga., native appeared to get stronger as the game wore on, registering five of his 10 strikeouts after the fifth inning.

"I thought I was really ineffective early in today's game," said Rowley. "I didn't pitch off of my fastball as well as I wanted to early in the game, but I was able to throw the change-up and slider for strikes. Later on, I was able to settle down and I found a groove."

Rowley was quick to point out that the Black Knights' defense behind him helped him out in today's contest.

"I pitched to contact when I needed to today," said Rowley. "I've been pitching to our strengths, and that starts with our defense. The thing that was most impressive about the defense today was the fact they were able to make adjustments. Alex (Jensen) made an error early, but he came back and made some great plays behind me. The defense has been playing well behind all of our pitchers so far this season, and there is a good sense of trust that is developing on the club."

UMBC (0-6) was able to get to Rowley in the bottom of the first inning as the Retrievers scored one run on two hits to take an early 1-0 lead. Rob McCabe led off the frame by blasting a double off the wall in right field. The UMBC catcher moved to third base on Tom Gilchrist's groundout and scored on Max Himmelstein's RBI single.

Army (5-3) stormed back in the top of the second inning as the Black Knights scored four runs on four hits and one UMBC error.

Watkins, Earls and Alex Jensen strung together consecutive singles to open the frame, with Jensen's base hit scoring Watkins from third base. Dakari Cooke then walked to load the bases, and Cody Murtle hit a sacrifice fly to center field to provide Army with a 2-1 edge. Price followed with an RBI single into the gap in left-center field to score Jensen with the third run of the inning. Cooke then took third base on an error by the UMBC shortstop, and he scored on Daniel Cortes' fielder's choice grounder.

The Black Knights tacked on two more runs in the top of the third inning. Watkins and Earls hit back-to-back singles to open the frame, and both runners moved into scoring position following Jensen's sacrifice bunt. Cooke then came through with an RBI single to score Watkins and move Earls to third base. Murtle followed with a squeeze bunt to deliver Earls and extend the Black Knights' lead to 6-1.

Army pushed its cushion to 7-1 in the fourth inning as Watkins doubled with two outs and came around on Earls' base hit.

UMBC got one run back in the bottom of the fourth as Ian Glassman doubled leading off the frame and scored on Jake Barnes' RBI single.

The Retrievers would not threaten again against Rowley, however, as the Black Knights' starter retired the side in order in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth innings.

Army tacked on another insurance run in the top of the eighth inning on Earls' sacrifice fly. Sean McIlroy led off the frame by reaching on an error by the UMBC shortstop. McIlroy, who moved to second base on the play, took third on Watkins' groundout and scored when Earls lofted a fly ball to left field.

The Black Knights capped the scoring in the ninth when Price was hit by a pitch, moved to second on a passed ball and scored on Cortes' base hit.

Earls, who returned to the starting lineup for the first time since last weekend, was just as pleased with his defensive play as he was with performance at the plate.

"It just felt good to get back on the field," said Earls. "I just tried to stay through the middle; I was willing to do anything to get on base. The biggest thing for me is playing well defensively, and I felt like I did that tonight. Playing defense comes first and hitting comes second. Luckily, they both worked out tonight. We definitely have a long way to go, but we will build off of tonight's game and be better going forward."

Army and UMBC will close out their three-game series on Sunday, March 4. First pitch is scheduled for 12 p.m.

Game Notes: Army improves to 10-3 all-time versus UMBC ... the Black Knights wore their black jerseys with gray pants for all of today's action ... Army turned two double plays in today's contest ... Harold Earls established career highs with four hits, four total bases, two runs scored and two RBI today ... Earls is riding a five-game hitting streak ... Daniel Cortes is the only Army player to reach base safely in all eight games this season ... with two doubles today, Kevin McKague moved into fourth place on Army's all-time doubles list (43).

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