Air Force baseball rallied back from a 9-0 deficit to defeat Navy, 11-10, in 16 innings Sunday afternoon at the 2018 Freedom Classic at Historic Grainger Stadium in Kinston, NC. It was the most innings in a game in Air Force history.
Senior Ryan Robb hit a sacrifice-fly RBI to center field with the bases loaded, scoring junior Rob Dau for the go-ahead run in the top of the 16th.
Navy (4-2) put two runners on in the bottom of the 16th, but junior Jake Gilbert induced an inning ending double play as Air Force (1-5) captured its first win of the season in thrilling fashion.
The Falcons played its longest game in terms of innings played, surpassing the previous record of 15 innings, set against UNLV in 2015 and UC Santa Barbara in 1975. The marathon game took five hours and 35 minutes to complete.
The Falcons found themselves down 9-0 three innings in after the Midshipmen scored three runs in each of the first three innings.
Air Force began its rally in the fourth with two runs off RBIs from Drew Wiss and Robb. The Falcons plated four runs in the sixth to make it a 9-6 game. Highlighting the inning was a three-run home run by Dau.
After a Navy run in the seventh, Air Force scored three in the eighth to cut the Navy lead to one at 10-9. Michael Kolesar had an RBI single and Wiss then tripled to score Kolesar. Wiss scored on a base hit by Robb.
The Falcons tied the game in the ninth on a sac-fly RBI by Daniel Jones, scoring Tyler Zabojnik.
Air Force’s bullpen logged 15.1 innings pitched, as starting pitcher John Byrnes was chased from the game in the first. Ryan Holloway made his season debut out of the bullpen and tossed 6.2 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit, while striking out five. Shawn Kelley gave the Falcons four innings of relief with two runs allowed. Gilbert (1-0) tossed the final three innings of scoreless ball for the win. Joe Kincart also pitched in relief.
The Falcons had 15 hits on the day. Dau went 5-for-8 with four runs scored and three RBIs. Robb drove in three with a base hit and the two sac fly’s. Kolesar and Wiss added two hits each. Jones and Tyler Ward also had base hits for the Falcons.
Navy had 13 hits. Zach Biggers went 5-for-8 with three runs scored. Midshipman reliever Nicholas Elder (0-1) took the loss. Starting pitcher Andrew Sauer pitched 5.1 innings.
"We got down 9-0 in the third and our guys had two options: we could roll over or we could battle and compete for every pitch," Air Force head coach Mike Kazlausky said. "The resilience we showed in this game is what we expect of our cadets, not only on the baseball field, but in their military careers while they are fighting wars as well. Moving forward, we can go back to this game as an example of how to react when the going gets tough."
Air Force has little time to rest as they return to action tomorrow at #12 North Carolina State. First pitch, at Doak Field in Raleigh, NC, is slated for 2 pm ET.