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No. 10 CNU baseball falls to No. 3 Shenandoah University in NCAA regional finals

The historic season included several team milestones including the 900th win program history with over 600 coming under the direction of head coach John Harvell.
Credit: CNU Athletics

WINCHESTER, Va. — For the second straight year, the Christopher Newport baseball season came to a close in the NCAA Regional Championship against a top-five ranked team in the nation as the Captains (33-11) suffered a pair of losses on Sunday to No. 3 Shenandoah University (41-8). The tenth-ranked Captains dropped game six of the Winchester, VA NCAA Regional, 14-5, before the Hornets clinched the championship in game seven in a 5-3 final.

CNU brought the game-tying run to the plate in the top of the ninth inning, but a late-stage comeback bid was denied at Kevin Anderson Field at Bridgeforth Stadium in Winchester, Virginia. The Captains close the season with a 33-11 overall record. 
Josh Reinhold (42) and Justin Bowers (40) each closed out the 2023 season riding 40-game on-base streaks, each ranking in the top-five in program history. Reinhold matched Billy Steel for the second longest consecutive game on base streak in program history and will carry the run over into his sophomore season next year.
In the first game of the day, the Captains escaped a first-inning jam with only one run surrendered as rookie Brandon Cassedy came on with the bases loaded and nobody out. He struck out the first batter he faced and then induced an inning-ending double play, but Christopher Newport would never knot the score again as the Hornets held off the nationally-ranked CNU offense.
Shenandoah scored seven runs in the middle innings before the Captains got on the board, trimming the lead to 8-5 headed into the seventh inning. Unfortunately for CNU fans, the Hornets put up another six runs in the top of the seventh to stretch the lead back and pull away for the game one win.
In the first contest, rookie Sam Benedict smashed his first career home run just two days after his twin brother Jake Benedict cleared the wall for his first career round-tripper on Friday. The former Benedict finished the first game 1-for-3 with 2 RBI, two runs scored and a walk to help lead the CNU offense. Bowers, Scott Crosson, and Alec Reilly each rapped a pair of hits in the setback as well.
As the teams switched dugouts for the decisive Game Seven, the Captains got on the board first when Reinhold tripled into right field and Bowers drove him in on a sacrifice fly. CNU called on senior starter Dylan Weber (8-3) to start the game on the mound after pitching into the seventh against Immaculata on Friday afternoon. Shenandoah scored twice, including one unearned run, to take the lead in the bottom of the first.
Facing Shenandoah senior Torrey Savoia in his first career start on the mound, the Captains bats were stifled for the next five innings as Shenandoah built a 5-1 lead heading into the top of the sixth inning. Weber battled for three innings at the start before giving way to the bullpen, allowing just the one earned run on five hits with a pair of strikeouts. He closed out his senior season with 103 strikeouts, marking the fifth most in a single season in program history and ranking in the top-20 nationally. 
In the top of the sixth, CNU manufactured another run with Reinhold in the thick of the action. He led off with a single into left field and moved up to second on a single by Bowers two batters later. That would bring up Reilly and the senior stayed hot, driving in his 11th run in the last six games with a hot roller up the middle.
The comeback bid would continue in the top of the eighth when Zach Dzarnowski and Bowers walked in back-to-back at-bats. Reilly moved the runners over with a groundball to the right side and Jake Benedict smoked a run-scoring line drive into left field for another run.
Christian Williams and Kyle Lewis combined for three clean innings of relief to keep the Captains in the game, but the offense just couldn't muster the game-tying runs late in the game.
With just three outs remaining, the Captains had the bottom of the order coming up to try and salvage the season. Ayden Stuffel made sure CNU did not go quietly, leading off with a tailing liner into left center field for a single and bringing the tying run to the plate. Sam Benedict moved him over with a groundball to first base, but the Hornets closer followed with a foul out for the second out. With two outs and Stuffel on second, the Captains' designated hitter Scott Crosson looked to extend the inning. He drove the ball deep to center, but it stayed in the yard and Shenandoah clinched the title.
After the game, Sam BenedictJustin BowersAlec Reilly, and Jack Braley were all named to the Winchester, VA NCAA Regional All-Tournament Team.
The historic season included several team milestones including the 900th win program history with over 600 coming under the direction of head coach John Harvell. Defensively, the Captains made just 48 errors, marking the third fewest in program history over a full season while logging the second best fielding percentage in program lore at .970. On the mound, the CNU pitching staff was dominant with 428 strikeouts standing as the fourth most in CNU history while the Captains set posted the third-best opponents batting average all-time with a .235 mark over 381.0 innings pitched. As a team at the plate, the Captains reached base at a .438 clip, ranking as the second highest in program history only to a .460 mark in 2019.

Individually, Justin Bowers closes his two-year tenure with the Captains ranked fourth all-time at CNU in slugging (.699) and on-base percentage (.486). He also hit 22 career home runs, ranking eighth most all-time. 

The Captains made the team's 11th NCAA Tournament appearance with all 11 coming for Coach Harvell. It is just the seventh time in program history CNU recorded 30 or more wins.

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