Army Sweeps Aside Lafayette

Chris Rowley

Chris Rowley

April 14, 2012

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WEST POINT, N.Y. - - Chris Rowley tied the Academy record with his third consecutive shutout in the opener, and Nick Dignacco pitched 6.1 solid innings in the nightcap as Army swept a Patriot League doubleheader from Lafayette on a warm and sun-splashed Saturday afternoon at Doubleday Field.

Rowley allowed just four hits and Army pushed across the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning to defeat the Leopards, 1-0, in the first game of the twinbill. Army then completed its seventh consecutive doubleheader sweep with a 4-2 victory in the nightcap.

Army (26-9, 10-0 PL) has swept five straight Patriot League doubleheaders for the first time since the 2004 squad accomplished the feat. The Black Knights, who have won 21 of their last 26 games, remain three games ahead of Holy Cross (7-3 PL) in the conference standings at the midway point of the league schedule.

Lafayette (10-24-1, 4-6 PL) falls into a two-way tie with Bucknell (4-6 PL) for third place in the Patriot League standings following today's action. The Leopards have lost three straight games and seven of their last nine contests.

"I was very impressed with our pitching and defense throughout the doubleheader," said Army head coach Joe Sottolano. "We got great, consistent performances from all three of the pitchers that we used today. I'm very proud of the ballclub in terms of how we competed defensively and on the mound. Pitching and defense win championships, and pitching and defense won us a couple of ballgames today.

"I also thought we showed some resilience offensively," added Sottolano. "We weren't as sharp as we can be, but we still scrapped for some runs and were able to do enough to win two games. We put balls in play and put pressure on the defense. The bottom line is that you have to put the ball in play competitively to make things happen, and we did that."

Rowley (8-0) struck out seven and did not walk a batter en route to his third straight blanking. The junior right-hander now owns Army's single-season record with four shutouts. He is the first Army hurler to pitch three consecutive shutouts since Jason Hance accomplished the feat during the 1994 campaign. Rowley has tossed 22 straight scoreless innings, just one shy of Hance's school standard.

"Chris is pitching with great confidence and poise," said Sottolano of Rowley. "He's evolved as a great Division I pitcher. We're very proud of what Chris has done in terms of setting the tone and mentality for our pitching staff. I think it carries over to all of our pitchers, and you saw that today with what both Nick and Gunnar were able to do in the second game."

Rowley, who was in control of the game from the outset, retired 12 straight Lafayette batters at one point. He allowed just one Leopard into scoring position in the contest. The Duluth, Ga., native has won eight straight starts after receiving a no-decision in his first outing of the season. He outdueled Lafayette ace John Gentile (0-8), who yielded just two hits in a complete-game effort of his own.

"It feels good to go out and set the tone for the weekend," said Rowley of his most recent gem. "I try to go out there every weekend and set that tone on the mound, and I think we accomplished that today. We played great defense throughout the doubleheader, and Nick and Gunnar both pitched well in the second game."

Although he's just one inning shy of equaling the school record for consecutive shutout frames, Rowley says he focuses on getting three outs at a time.

"I just try to live inning by inning," said Rowley. "My primary focus is on going out there and getting three outs."

Army scratched out an unearned run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to record its second walk-off victory of the season. Cody Murtle reached on a throwing error by Lafayette shortstop Brian Davila with one out, and he scored all the way from first base when Davila committed his second throwing error of the inning on Alex Jensen's groundball. Davila fielded the ball cleanly, but his throw sailed wide of the mark and bounced down the right field line, allowing a hustling Murtle to plate the game's lone run.

Zach Price and J.T. Watkins both recorded singles to account for Army's only hits of the contest. Bobby Fargnoli went 2-for-3 to pace Lafayette's four-hit attack.

The Black Knights' offense got on track in the second game of the doubleheader, outhitting the Leopards, 10-6. Price, Murtle, Daniel Cortes and Harold Earls led the way, collecting two hits apiece.

Army scored an unearned run in the bottom of the first inning in the nightcap to jump on top, 1-0. Price and Cortes ignited the uprising with back-to-back singles. Then, after Kevin McKague struck out, Watkins hit what looked like a double-play ball to second base. Davila's relay throw to first base was errant, however, allowing Price to score from second.

The Black Knights manufactured another run in the second inning to make it 2-0. Murtle and Earls began the frame with consecutive base hits. Jensen's sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position and Clayton Mosley's sacrifice fly to right field plated Murtle from third base.

Army extended its advantage to 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth on McKague's bases loaded walk. The Black Knights took advantage of three walks and one hit batsman in the inning to push across the run without the aid of a hit.

Lafayette cut into Army's cushion in the top of the seventh, scoring two runs on two hits and trimming the Black Knights' lead to 3-2. Kevin McCarville singled with one out and he motored all the way around from first base when Davila doubled into the gap in left center field. Davila then moved to third base on a wild pitch and scored on Andrew Santomauro's RBI groundout.

Army got one of those runs back in the bottom of the seventh inning to increase its lead to 4-2. Murtle ripped a base hit to open the frame, and he moved to second base on Earls' single. Both runners moved up a base when Lafayette reliever Chris Boyce was called for a balk, and Murtle later scored on Boyce's throwing error.

Dignacco (4-2) matched his career high with eight strikeouts over 6.1 innings to earn the victory. He allowed just two runs on six hits and one walk. Gunnar Carroll came on and fired 2.2 scoreless frames to pick up his fourth save of the season. He struck out three and did not permit a hit or a walk during his sterling outing.

Lafayette starter Ethan Perro (1-4) was touched for three runs (two earned) on seven hits and two walks in 5.2 innings. He struck out five, but was saddled with the loss. Kevin Casey went 2-for-4 to lead the Leopards offensively.

Army and Lafayette will conclude their four-game series on Sunday, April 15, with a doubleheader slated for 1 p.m.

Game Notes: Army improves to 70-55-2 all-time versus Lafayette ... the Black Knights have won seven straight games versus the Leopards dating back to last season ... Army wore its white uniforms with black caps today ... at 10-0, Army is off to its best Patriot League start since joining the conference in 1993 ... Chris Rowley has five career shutouts, just two shy of Nick Hill's Academy record ... with eight wins this year, Rowley is just two shy of the Army single-season standard of 10 ... Rowley lowered his earned run average to 1.06 following today's outing ... Harold Earls broke Zach Price's Army freshman record with his 15th stolen base of the season in the first game of the doubleheader ... Price, who was one of just two Black Knights to record base hits in both ends of today's twinbill, extended his hitting streak to seven straight games ... Price leads Army with 15 multiple-hit games this season ... Nick Dignacco also had eight strikeouts versus Illinois State on March 17 ... Dignacco has won three straight starts.

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