CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Seth Maness showed why he’s the career victories leader among active college pitchers, and Chase McDonald showed why he was moved to the cleanup spot.
Maness (10-3) took a four-hit shutout into the ninth inning before settling for his 38th career victory Saturday and McDonald kept up his hot hitting and broke open a close game with a grand slam in the seventh as East Carolina eliminated Navy 6-1 in the Charlottesville Regional.
“When you’re in an elimination (game) and your back’s against the wall, it’s your last game, I can tell you as a coach there’s no better guy that you want on the mound than this guy right here,” Pirates coach Billy Godwin said after Maness’ fifth complete game of the year.
“We’re in a one-game season right now.”
Maness, now 38-11 for his career, came within two outs of his second consecutive shutout before Andrew Hahn’s ninth-inning grounder brought home the only run for the Midshipmen.
And he had success with high fastballs, even while trying to keep the ball down.
“He didn’t leave too many balls down the middle,” Navy centerfielder Alex Azor said after getting two of his team’s five hits, including a first-inning double. “He was always painting and he didn’t keep the ball low too much. Like coach kept telling us, he was effectively high.”
Nine of the Midshipmen’s outs came on outfield fly balls.
McDonald, moved from seventh on Friday to fourth in the batting order by Godwin because the coach said he liked the way the true freshman was seeing the ball, made his coach look great.
When he came up after three walks loaded the bases in a 2-0 game in the seventh, coaches reminded McDonald to lay off low stuff and wait for Preston Gainey to throw something up.
“He did, and I attacked it,” McDonald said of his fourth home run, a line drive to left.
He said it was the first grand slam he ever remembers hitting, and that he wasn’t sure it was going out because Navy left fielder Brandon Beans faked him out while tracking the ball.
His pitcher sure appreciated the breathing room it provided.
“That was a big blast,” Maness said with a wide grin. “It was a 2-0 game and nothing seemed to really be going our way and that big blast took a lot of pressure off of us.”
Navy (33-25-1) was making its first tournament appearance since 2002.
Sam Long (5-6) worked into the seventh for Navy, allowing five hits and striking out two. He was replaced by Gainey after issuing a leadoff walk in the seventh. Two more walks and two strikeouts by Gainey loaded the bases with two outs before McDonald cleared them.
Until then, it had been a game of near misses.
Maness made a nifty play in the fourth when Dave Milanes tried to score from third on a squib toward third. Maness fielded the ball and threw to Zach Wright for the out at home.
Milanes was involved in another key missed opportunity in the sixth when he was hit by a pitch after Azor singled with no one out. That brought up cleanup hitter Greg Dupell, who hit a line drive to second and Milanes was doubled off first. Maness then fanned Jack Bland.
The Pirates had the bases loaded with no out in the second, but only got one run out of it thanks to Beans, the Middies’ left fielder. He turned a fly ball to shallow left into a double play when he threw out McDonald trying to tag and score. Jack Reinheimer then singled in a run.
East Carolina made it 2-0 in the third when Corey Thompson walked with one out, stole second, took third on a grounder and scored when Nick Driscoll booted a grounder at second.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)