For the 2014 season, Lehigh baseball made it to the championship game, but fell short of its second title to Bucknell University. Still, the team is using last season’s experience to build toward a better future.
As the Mountain Hawks’ season opener approaches, the team will get another shot to win the Patriot League Championship. The team will open the season on Friday, as it travels to Davidson College in hopes of starting this season off with a victory.
Last year, Lehigh finished with a 25-24 overall record and a 10-10 record in the Patriot League. The team went into the postseason as the No. 3 seed and upset Army 2-1 in the series before falling 2-0 in a series to Bucknell for the championship.
The entire infield and some standout veterans are returning for Lehigh. This includes senior outfielder Justin Pacchioli and junior second baseman Michael Garzillo. Both have been added to the preseason All-Patriot League team, and Pacchioli has been honored as the preseason Patriot League Player of the Year.
Pacchioli will hold down the outfield as a centerfielder. The senior led the Patriot League last year with a batting average of .362 and was also named the No. 53 best senior in college baseball by Perfect Game. Garzillo led the Mountain Hawks last year with 56 hits, 15 extra-base hits, 20 walks and a slugging percentage of .407.
Throughout the offseason, the team has had the Patriot League title on its mind since the loss to Bucknell last season.
“We want to win the Patriot League, plain and simple,” Pacchioli said. “We got to it last year and fell short. This year we aren’t expecting anything less, so the focus for our team this offseason has been to simply get better.”
Along with Pacchioli, senior pitcher Nick Stephens will also look to lead the team to the top of the Patriot League. Stephens finished his junior season with two wins and 37 strikeouts in 46 innings thrown. He is an experienced player on the team and has started in 23 games over his career.
Stephens was clear about the goals of the team for this season.
“We need to win our position everyday, trust our stuff, win the toughness battles and understand what we are trying to accomplish this year,” Stephens said.
Pacchioli stressed the importance of being a senior leader and to teach the younger players certain beliefs to ensure the team remains successful after they leave.
“We just try to instill leadership and hard work into our younger guys, because that is what last year’s seniors did for us,” Pacchioli said. “They built this new system, and it has helped us work harder than ever to get ready for the season. The less distractions we have off the field, the more time we have to focus on our game.”
Stephens agreed with Pacchioli’s view on the importance of leadership.
“I want to instill that we are men of value and character,” Stephens said. “I believe that it is never about the individual, and that change is created from believing at a core level to be better every day. I think passing on a legacy of victory and hope is something they can latch onto and uphold as long as they continue to believe.”
They both said they feel that if the younger players buy into these values and apply them to their daily lives, on and off the field, there’s no telling how much success they will have over the next few years.
The baseball team will open the season against Davidson and will get to break in the new Goodman Campus baseball field March 18 against Muhlenberg College.