Sophomore right fielder Luke Braham went 5-for-5 and Scott Kozink pitched into the ninth inning for the win on his mother's birthday as Navy claimed the Patriot League championship with an 8-6 victory over Bucknell yesterday in Annapolis.
Braham homered, hit two doubles and had three RBIs in taking tournament MVP honors. Kozink (11 hits, four strikeouts, three walks) got the first batter to face him in the ninth, but needed help from reliever Dave Self. Self struck out Joe D'Orazio with a man on first to end the game after the Bison had scored twice.
The Mids (25-15), the visitors yesterday at Max Bishop Stadium, defeated the Bison for the second straight game in the best-of-three series. Navy, an 11-3 victor over Bucknell on Saturday, will play host to the Northeast Conference champion May 14-15 in a best-of-three play-in series for an NCAA tournament berth. Monmouth or St. Francis will be the opponent of the Mids who won their third Patriot League title in the past five seasons under coach Bob MacDonald.
"This was big for us because we were miserable last year, didn't have the right attitude or work ethic," said MacDonald, whose team was 19-27 last season. "These kids grew up and turned it around."
The turnaround for Navy yesterday came in the fourth and fifth innings when the Mids scored five runs to take a 6-3 lead after the Bison (31-17) had gone up 3-1 in the second inning.
Braham, who picked up the slack for injured four-time All-Patriot outfielder and conference Player of the Year Toph Lake, led off the second inning with a double and scored on an error to give Navy a 1-0 lead. Bucknell answered with three runs, a two-run single by No. 9 hitter Ken Corcoran the key blow.
After a scoreless third, Braham started the fourth with his seventh homer to left. Chris Lankford singled in DH Joe Krone, who had reached on an infield hit, to tie the game at 3-3.
With two out in the fifth, sophomore first baseman Mark Zematis drew his 43rd walk tying the Mids' single-season record (Marius Jones, 1985). Braham's shot to the gap in left-center chased Zematis home from first. Krone then singled in Braham to make it 5-3.
Krone took second on the throw home and promptly stole third when Bucknell starter and loser Eric Junge (4-2) forgot about him. Pat Klokow's single to left scored Krone with the sixth run and sent Junge to the dugout.
In the eighth inning, shortstop Todd Benke tripled in Matt Michalowicz (Chesapeake-AA) with Navy's seventh run and scored his 51st run of the season on Braham's fifth hit to make it 8-3.
The runs proved decisive as Bucknell scored three runs in its final at-bats.
Pub Date: 5/04/98