WEST POINT, N.Y. — Logan Lee threw the fourth no-hitter in school history in the opener, and Army outlasted Bucknell in a 15-inning thriller in the nightcap as the Black Knights clinched the Patriot League regular-season title by sweeping both ends of a conference doubleheader from the Bison on Saturday.
Lee carried a perfect game into the seventh inning and finished with Army’s first no-hitter since 1957 as the Black Knights took an 8-0 decision in the opener. Army then edged Bucknell 2-1 in a 15-inning pitchers’ duel in the nightcap.
Army (33-9, 16-0 PL) will be the top seed and have the luxury of home-field advantage when the conference tournament begins next month. The Black Knights have won nine consecutive games and 28 of their last 33 contests. Army has won the regular-season conference title in six of the last nine years dating back to 2004.
Bucknell (19-24, 6-10 PL) remains in third place in the Patriot League standings, despite dropping all four games this weekend.
“It was a tough hitters’ weekend with the wind blowing in,” Army head coach Joe Sottolano said. “It put a lot of pressure on both clubs to manufacture runs and produce in key situations. I thought the pitchers were the story of the weekend, on both sides. Both teams battled hard and waited for somebody to make a mistake and capitalize on it.”
Lee (5-1) came within three outs of a perfect game for the second consecutive week. The senior left-hander struck out seven batters and induced 10 groundball outs during his dominant outing. Lee was brilliant for the second consecutive weekend, retiring the first 18 Bucknell batters before issuing a leadoff walk to Bob Donato on a 3-2 pitch to begin the seventh inning.
“I was able to handle my emotions a little better this week,” Lee said. “To get a no-hitter was special. Cody [Murtle] made a couple of great plays in right field. That diving catch he made in the seventh inning was awesome. I had my good stuff today, and it made for a special day. There have been so many great pitchers to come through here, so to throw the first no-hitter in 55 years is very special.”
Army gave Lee all the support he would need in the bottom of the first inning on Mark McCants’ three-run homer. Zach Price and Kevin McKague both walked in front of McCants, who crushed a towering home run over the fence in right field. The three-run shot — the first of McCants’ young career — provided the Black Knights with an early 3-0 advantage.
Army tacked on unearned runs in the fourth and fifth innings to stretch its lead to 5-0, and Cody Murtle’s three-run triple in the sixth capped the scoring.
Murtle finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs and one run scored to pace Army’s six-hit attack in the opener.
Dan Goldstein (1-3) yielded five runs (three earned) on five hits in 4.2 innings in taking the loss for Bucknell. He walked four and struck out three.
Army took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning of the nightcap. Daniel Cortes drew a one-out walk, advanced to second on a balk, moved to third base on McKague’s base hit and scored on J.T. Watkins’ sacrifice fly.
Bucknell rallied to tie the score in the top of the third. Robb Scott singled with one out, took second base when Donato walked and scored on David Duffett’s RBI single.
Both teams were then limited by excellent pitching, with neither squad pushing across a run until the bottom of the 15th, when Murtle’s RBI single plated McKague with the game-winning run.
Army starter Alex Robinett worked out of a jam in the fourth inning and finished his outing by retiring the final seven Bison that he faced. Black Knight reliever Gunnar Carroll worked out of three bases-loaded situations during his seven-inning stint on the mound to keep Bucknell off the scoreboard.
BU’s most dangerous scoring threat came in the 12th when the Bison loaded the bases with no outs. Murtle then made the defensive play of the day when he caught Colby Vanderbeck’s fly ball in right field and threw home to double off Donato, who tried to score from third on the play. Gerry Runyan then grounded out to second base as Carroll wriggled free of the jam.
Bucknell loaded the bases again in the 13th inning, but Carroll fanned Duffett to retire the side.
Army was not able to generate much offense against Bison reliever Alex Cillo, who limited the Black Knights to two hits over seven scoreless innings. The Bucknell closer retired eight in a row at one point and finished with four strikeouts.
One of the Black Knights’ best scoring chances against Cillo came in the bottom of the 12th inning when Alex Jensen reached third base with just one out. Cillo was able to strand Jensen there, though, striking out McCants and getting Price to bounce out to shortstop.
Army finally broke through in the 15th with a two-out rally against Bucknell lefty Russell Seidell (2-3). After Price and Cortes were retired, McKague began the game-winning uprising with a base hit up the middle. Watkins then reached on an error by the third baseman, advancing McKague to second base. Murtle followed with a line drive single to right field, and McKague slid in ahead of the throw to send Army to its fourth walk-off win of the season.
“I never had any doubt in my mind that we were going to get it done, and I knew that the seniors were going to come through on Senior Day,” Murtle said. “I just tried to center the ball up and make something happen. It’s the most incredible feeling in baseball. That’s what you play for, those moments. That’s why its America’s favorite pastime.”
Manny Fernandez (4-0) collected the victory for the Black Knights after tossing two scoreless innings.