Army Opens NCAA Regional Against Virginia

Chris Rowley

Chris Rowley

May 29, 2012

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WEST POINT, N.Y. - The Army baseball team will begin play at the NCAA Charlottesville Regional on Friday, June 1, when the fourth-seeded Black Knights face top-seeded Virginia at 11 a.m.

Army (41-13) earned the Patriot League's automatic berth into the NCAA Regionals after winning the conference's postseason tournament. The Black Knights have already set or tied 38 school team and individual records this spring, including most wins (41).

Virginia, ranked No. 16 in the latest National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association poll, earned an at-large bid to the field of 64. The Cavaliers (38-17-1) will serve as a regional host for the sixth time in the last nine seasons.

Fans that are unable to make the trek to Charlottesville, Va., can follow along with all of the action through Twitter updates (@ArmyAthletics), live stats (www.goARMYsports.com) and radio broadcasts (WALL - 1340 AM/WEOK - 1390 AM) in the Hudson Valley. The audio will also be streamed online at www.goARMYsports.com.

Kevin McKague leads Army in most of the major offensive categories, topping the club with a .389 batting average, a .553 slugging percentage, 16 doubles, five home runs, 44 RBI, 105 total bases and a .487 on-base percentage. McKague also ranks among the team leaders with 38 runs scored, 24 walks and 13 stolen bases. The two-way standout, who doubles as Army's closer, also leads the Black Knights' pitching staff with a 1.46 earned run average and ranks second with five saves.

Harold Earls leads the squad with 23 stolen bases and ranks second with a .347 batting average. Earls lists second with a .433 on-base percentage and lists third with a .405 slugging percentage.

Zach Price paces the club with 50 runs scored, ranks second with 20 stolen bases and 27 walks, and lists third with a .324 batting average and a .427 on-base percentage.

Despite missing 10 games this spring, J.T. Watkins has supplied some of Army's best power numbers. The team's starting catcher, who is batting .318, has hit nine doubles, one triple and five homers, while driving in 31 runs. Cody Murtle, who has ripped eight doubles and four home runs, lists second on the team with 41 RBI.

Army's offense, which averages 5.8 runs per contest, leads the Patriot League with a .290 team batting average.

The Black Knights' pitching staff brings an impressive 3.20 earned run average into this weekend's NCAA Regional Tournament. Ten Army hurlers currently boast ERAs below 3.70.

Chris Rowley leads the team's rotation with an 11-0 record and a 1.97 earned run average. He also paces the squad with 76 strikeouts in 91.1 innings over 14 starts. Logan Lee (8-2, 3.28 ERA), Nick Dignacco (7-2, 3.38 ERA) and Alex Robinett (3-1, 2.73 ERA) have been consistent starters for Army this season as well.

The back end of the Black Knights' bullpen has been led lately by Gunnar Carroll, who tops the team with eight saves. Carroll, who shows a 1-0 record to go along with a 2.45 ERA, also paces the relief corps with 40 strikeouts and 51.1 innings over 21 appearances.

This weekend's showing at the Charlottesville Regional marks Army's fifth trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Black Knights registered the program's first NCAA tourney appearance in 2000 after winning the Patriot League championship. Army also earned NCAA Regional berths after capturing conference titles in 2004, 2005 and 2009.

In their most recent trip to the NCAAs, the upstart Black Knights advanced to the Austin Regional final before falling to top-seeded Texas. Army went 2-2 during that regional showing, picking off Texas State and Boston College en route to the date with the Longhorns.

By earning the school's sixth Patriot League championship overall two weeks ago, Army captured its fourth conference crown in nine years. The Black Knights have garnered at least a share of six regular-season Patriot League titles in the past nine years and earned Patriot League Tournament berths eight times during that span.

Virginia earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament after finishing fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Cavaliers are competing in their ninth consecutive NCAA tournament and are one of 10 schools to play in each of the last nine tourneys.

This is Virginia's 12th NCAA appearance overall. The Cavaliers advanced to the College World Series in 2009 and 2011.

Virginia is led by an explosive lineup (.298 BA/.424 SLG) and a dominant pitching staff (3.48 ERA).

The Cavaliers are paced offensively by sophomore INF Stephen Bruno, who is batting .362 with 20 doubles, six home runs and 48 runs batted in. Freshman OF Derek Fisher (.309 BA) tops the club with eight triples, seven home runs and 50 RBI.

Junior RHP Branden Kline has proven to be Virginia's top starting pitcher with a 6-3 record and a 3.68 ERA. He leads the Cavaliers with 89 strikeouts in 88 innings pitched. Senior RHP Justin Thompson (4-3, 2.41 ERA) has 12 saves as UVa's closer.

Army and Virginia have met five times previously, but the schools have not squared off since 1913. The Cavaliers, who own a 3-1-1 advantage in the all-time series, won the first meeting, 5-1, in 1907. The Black Knights captured their lone win in 1913 when they took a 9-3 decision from UVa.

Army will face either second-seeded Oklahoma or third-seeded Appalachian State on Saturday.

The winner of the Charlottesville Regional will face the winner of the Columbia Regional in the NCAA Super Regionals next weekend (June 8-11). The eight Super Regional winners advance to the College World Series, to be contested June 15-26 in Omaha, Neb.

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