Offense Erupts As Army Sweeps Sacred Heart

Cody Murtle

Cody Murtle

March 10, 2012

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Game Two Box Score Get Acrobat Reader

TAMPA, Fla. - J.T. Watkins homered twice in the first game and Cody Murtle smashed a grand slam in the nightcap as the Army baseball team overpowered Sacred Heart in a doubleheader sweep Saturday afternoon at Paul Straub Field at Hyer Family Park on the campus of Jesuit High School.

Watkins went 3-for-5 and drove in five of Army's six runs in the Black Knights' 6-2 victory in the opening contest. His three-run shot in the fifth inning gave Army a 6-0 cushion and the Black Knights (7-4) held off the Pioneers (1-9) to secure the victory. Zach Price, Kevin McKague, Harold Earls and Mark McCants each registered two hits in the first game as the Black Knights finished with 13 base hits.

"There were a lot of good things that happened in that first game," said Watkins. "Fortunately, I got a couple of good pitches to hit, and everything worked out. I think the pitcher left a couple of balls up, and I was fortunate enough to take advantage of them."

Murtle was 3-for-4 with six RBI in the nightcap and Army scored a season-high 15 runs en route to a 15-6 win. Murtle's grand slam keyed the Black Knights' seven-run first inning, and they never looked back on their way to the lopsided victory. McKague and Alex Jensen recorded three hits apiece, and 11 different Army players finished with at least one base hit as the Black Knights pounded out a season-high 19 hits. Daniel Cortes was 2-for-4 with three runs scored to help pace the Army attack.

"It was nice to see us play the game well today," said Army head coach Joe Sottolano. "I thought we had a solid day. You always want to play well, but to come down here and start our trip this way gives us confidence and something to build from as we go along this week. There are certainly some things that we want to improve, but it was a very good start to a long and exciting week."

Chris Rowley (3-0) pitched Army to the win in the opener, allowing just one run on six hits over six innings. The junior righty struck out five and only permitted one walk en route to his third consecutive victory.

Gunnar Carroll was credited with his second save of the season in that first contest after pitching effectively for three innings of relief.

Logan Lee (1-0) earned his first victory of the young season in the nightcap as the senior lefty threw seven strong innings. The fourth-year hurler tossed six scoreless frames before Sacred Heart got to him for four runs in the seventh inning. He permitted seven hits and one walk while striking out four.

"It was a good start for us today," said Watkins, who also serves as one of Army's two captains. "It's always fun to get down here to Florida and play in the nice weather. Being down here gives the team a chance to relax a little bit, and I think that showed today."

Army took a 1-0 lead in the first inning of the opener as Watkins ripped an RBI single through the left side of the infield. Price singled leading off the frame, advanced to second base when Cortes was hit by a pitch and scored on Watkins' base hit.

The Black Knights extended their advantage to 3-0 in the bottom of the third inning, scoring two runs on three hits and one Sacred Heart error. Cortes singled with one out and he took second when the Sacred Heart shortstop threw the ball away. Cortes then advanced to third base on a wild pitch and scored on McKague's RBI groundout to shortstop. Watkins followed by crushing his first home run of the season over the fence in right field.

Sacred Heart threatened to score in the top of the fourth inning, but the Pioneers stranded runners at second and third. Keaton Flint reached on an error and he advanced to third base when Dave Boisture doubled down the right field line. Rowley was able to wriggle out of the jam unscathed, however, as he struck out Conor McEvoy and got Dan Perez to ground out to first.

After Rowley stranded two more Sacred Heart runners in the top of the fifth, Army broke the game open in the bottom half of that frame as Watkins smashed a three-run home run. Cortes walked with one out and moved to second base on McKague's line drive single to center field. Watkins then turned on a fastball and hammered the pitch deep to left field to make it 6-0.

Sacred Heart got one run back in the top of the sixth inning as the Pioneers drew to within 6-1. Boisture walked with one out, moved to second base on McEvoy's single and scored on Perez's base hit to left field. Rowley avoided further damage by fanning Matt Charmello and Rocco Gondek to retire the side.

SHU added another run in the bottom of the eighth inning as the Pioneers strung together three straight two-out singles off Carroll to make it 6-2. Carroll bounced back in the ninth inning, retiring Sacred Heart in order to nail down the victory.

Army jumped all over Sacred Heart in the first inning of the nightcap as the Black Knights scored seven runs on six hits. Murtle delivered the big blow in the frame, blasting a grand slam over the wall in right field. The first five Army batters reached base, and the Black Knights sent 11 men to the plate in the inning.

Price led off the game with a single up the middle and Cortes followed with a base hit to put runners on first and second. Price then stole third and scored when the catcher's throw skipped into left field. McKague followed with a walk and Watkins reached on a bunt single to load the bases. McCants then singled to drive home Cortes with the second run of the inning, setting the stage for Murtle, who cleared the bases with an opposite field shot to right. After Jensen flew out to center field, Dakari Cooke singled, stole second and scored when Price reached on an error.

Army added to its lead in the top of the third inning as the Black Knights scored a run on two hits. Murtle singled with one out and he scored all the way from first base when Jensen pounded a double into the gap in right-center field.

The Black Knights extended their lead to 9-0 in the top of the fourth inning when Cortes singled, moved to second base on a wild pitch and scored on McKague's base hit up the middle.

Army continued its offensive onslaught in the top of the sixth as the Black Knights scored four runs on three hits, extending their lead to 13-0. Army sent 10 men to the plate in the frame and took advantage of three walks and one Sacred Heart error.

Cortes walked leading off the inning and moved to second on McKague's single. Watkins followed by reaching on a fielder's choice groundball to second base, and Cortes scored when the shortstop's throw sailed wide. McCants and Earls then drew consecutive walks to load the bases for Murtle, who ripped a double over the center fielder's head to drive in a pair of runs. Price smacked an RBI single later in the inning to plate Earls with the fourth run of the frame.

The Black Knights made it 15-0 in the top of the seventh inning, scoring a pair of runs on two hits. McKague led off the frame with a base hit and he moved to second base when pinch-hitter Andrew Johnson was hit by a pitch. Both runners moved up a base when pinch-hitter Patrick Mescher grounded out to second, and McKague scored on Earls' RBI groundout. Pinch-hitter Michael Sands then drove home Johnson with a single up the middle.

Sacred Heart ended Lee's shutout bid in the bottom of the seventh as the Pioneers scored four runs on four hits, trimming Army's lead to 15-4. SHU tacked on two more runs in the ninth inning to cap the scoring.

Army and Sacred Heart will close out their three-game series on Sunday, March 11, when the teams meet at the New York Yankees Spring Training Facility in Tampa. The nine-inning contest is slated to begin at 3 p.m.

Game Notes: Army improves to 10-1 all-time versus Sacred Heart ... the Black Knights wore their white uniforms with black caps for both games today ... Army turned five double plays in today's doubleheader ... the Black Knights turned three DPs in the first game and two more in the second contest ... J.T. Watkins recorded his first career two home run game in the opener ... he is the first Army player to hit multiple home runs in a single game since Joey Henshaw (USMA '11) blasted a pair against Navy in last year's Patriot League Championship Series ... Watkins' drove in a career-high five RBI in the first game ... Watkins also posted a career high with nine total bases in the opener ... Mark McCants drew his first career start in the first game ... he started as the designated hitter and batted fifth ... he also started the second game ... Army started a total of four freshmen in the opener with Daniel Cortes, Harold Earls and Alex Jensen joining McCants in the starting lineup ... the Black Knights started five freshmen in the nightcap with Dakari Cooke joining that quartet ... Cody Murtle's grand slam in the nightcap marked Army's first grand slam since Clint Moore (USMA '11) crushed one against Lafayette last April ... Murtle posted career highs in RBI (six) and total bases (seven) in the nightcap ... Zach Price came to bat a career-high seven times in the second game ... Jensen hit his first career double in the nightcap ... Andrew Johnson and Tyler Williams made his season debuts in the nightcap ... Taylor Goucher made his first career appearance in the second game, working a scoreless eighth inning ... Erik Washburn made his first career appearance in the nightcap, pitching in the ninth inning.

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