Coming off a 3-1 win over Yale University last weekend, the Lehigh baseball team opened Patriot League play with a four-game series at Lafayette College Sunday and Monday.
The Mountain Hawks started league play by splitting their doubleheader against the Leopards with a 1-0 loss in the first contest and a 5-2 win in the second on Sunday. The team’s overall record sat at 9-11 and its league record at 1-1 after the pair of games against Lafayette to head into the second half of the series.
Senior infielder and outfielder Chris Kersey said because there are only six teams in the Patriot League, each league game Lehigh plays is important. He said the first conference series, however, has the largest implications for the remainder of the season and determines whether the team will open league play on a high note.
Coach Sean Leary said while all league games are important, Lehigh’s goal remains the same: win each weekend series.
Senior shortstop James Bleming said the 18 non-league games the team has played prior to the series against Lafayette have each helped the Mountain Hawks prepare for league play.
“Our main focus has been coming together as a team and finding our identity, making sure that each player on the team has a clearly defined role and is on board to do everything they can to win a championship,” Bleming said.
Leary said Lehigh’s starting group of pitchers has stepped up to take on more of a leadership role and help guide the team.
“They have worked very hard, and we believe they should set the tone for the team,” Leary said.
The team’s pitchers have extensive league experience, which Leary said gives the Mountain Hawks an advantage.
He said the seniors also bring important experience to the table, allowing them to serve as role models for the rest of the team.
“Our seniors have experienced the emotions of winning a championship and of missing the playoffs on the last day of the season last year,” Leary said. “They understand that physical and mental toll of our Patriot League schedule, and they will be great mentors to the younger players who are stepping into key roles this spring.”
During league play this year, the team is focusing on one game at a time and maintaining mental toughness to endure the long spring season.
“Overall, we are going to do everything we can to focus on taking things one pitch, one inning and one game at a time,” Kersey said. “We have put in the work and preparation this fall and offseason, so any unexpected challenge we face, we will be ready for.”
Kersey said whether the team will succeed comes down to the details of each game. He said embodying qualities like mental toughness and grit as well as executing the small things — such as taking extra bases, making routine plays and working at-bats — all add up when trying to secure victories.
It’s been the team’s goal since day one to win the Patriot League Championship, which Bleming said has served as a guiding force for the Mountain Hawks.
“Every rep in practice and in the weight room, starting in the summer in our summer leagues through fall ball as well as the long winter of off-season training, is all for that ring at the end of the spring,” Bleming said.
Kersey and Bleming believe winning a Patriot League Championship is within the Mountain Hawks’ grasp this season.
“We are focusing on what we have to do individually to win for the team and emphasizing the little things,” Bleming said. “If we can focus on the process, the results will take care of themselves.”
Lehigh will play against Rider University in the Liberty Bell Classic on Tuesday afternoon on the road before resuming Patriot League play this weekend against Holy Cross at home.