Senior catcher Jeff Shanfeldt grasps the ball after a pitch was thrown during the team's game against Army on J. David Walker Field at Legacy Park on April 7, 2018, at Legacy Park. (Adele Hancock/B&W Staff)

Lehigh baseball looks to maintain pitching, build offense

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The Lehigh baseball team looks to build some continuity and confidence in its lineup in order to be ready to compete for a Patriot League Championship.

The Mountain Hawks opened their season against Duke, where they fell 0-3 in their three-game series. Despite the loss, the team’s strong offensive effort lead to positive outlooks for the rest of the season, particularly the pitching staff’s performance.

“Duke is a nationally ranked team with outstanding pitching, and so we knew it would be a challenging weekend,” said coach Sean Leary.  “I thought our arms competed at a high-level all weekend against a talented ACC lineup, and our offense and defense made large strides over the series.”

The team also saw the series against Duke as a great opportunity to get outside after the winter weather kept most of its practices inside. Both junior shortstop Matt Hand and senior catcher Jeff Shanfeldt said the team was happy to finally get out of the field house.

“It’s good to finally be on the field, especially in these coming weekends before the we start the Patriot League,” Hand said. “We have only had a handful of practices outside.”

Despite the loss at Duke, Shanfeldt said he was surprised at the level they played at during the team’s first weekend.

“It’s always difficult transitioning from inside Rauch Field House to outside, but I thought we held our own,” Shanfeldt said. “Our pitching staff did phenomenal. We just needed to help them out with the bat and the glove.”

The Mountain Hawks felt more comfortable in their three-game series against Mount St. Mary’s this past weekend in Baltimore, resulting in a 2-1 win, sweeping the doubleheader on Sunday.  The series further solidified the team’s confidence in its pitching strength with junior pitcher Jason Reynolds.

Reynolds allowed only three earned runs on four hits, the rest resulting in two walks and nine strikeouts on 84 pitches.

“We knew that we would have a really strong pitching rotation,” Hand said.  “We’re expecting them to have a really big year.”

The focus for the team moving forward lies on improving its offense. By the end of the Duke series, the team recognized that they needed to focus on batting and getting on base.

“We struck out way too many times and we can’t afford to do that in the Patriot League,” Hand said. “If we can score three or four runs a game with our pitching staff, I think we will be really effective.”

The past two years, Lehigh has been only one game out of making the playoffs. This year, the team hopes to battle beyond expectations, continue to build its confidence and make a push into competing for the Patriot League Championship.

“No one is expecting us to be the team we think we can be, but I think we have a really good chance with the talent we have this year,” Hand said. “It’s just about executing when it matters.”

The Mountain Hawks will face the Towson Tigers March 1-3 in Towson, Maryland.

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