Lehigh sophomore Luke Rettig pitches for the Mountain Hawks. Rettig faced two separate summer baseball league cancellations before committing to the South Florida Collegiate Baseball League. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Baseball looks to use veteran leadership to rebound from 2019 season

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Entering a quarter-century as head coach of Lehigh’s baseball team, Sean Leary said he has high hopes for his season’s roster, given the dedication and skill exhibited by this team throughout the fall and the offseason.

“We believe we have the pitching, and we believe we have the veteran leadership that will mesh together very well this year,” Leary said. “This team has enough talent and has put in the work to be in contention for a championship title.”

The Lehigh baseball team is looking forward to the start of its 2020 season when they open on Feb. 14 at Davidson College. 

The team finished the 2019 season with a 21-28 record. Leary said the close losses of last season provide motivation for the team as they head into this year’s matchups.

Among the players Leary expects to have key roles in the team’s upcoming season, sophomore pitchers Mason Black and Luke Rettig stand out the most. Stepping up in the 2019 season, Black led all freshmen pitchers in wins, ERA and WHIP after going 3-0 with a 4.36 ERA. He was named Preseason Patriot League Pitcher of the Year by Baseball America on Thursday, Jan. 30.

Rettig became a main piece of the starting rotation toward the end of last season, as the sophomore led all Patriot League freshmen pitchers with 47 strikeouts. But he and his teammates are determined to continue improving. 

“We are focused on working our hardest every time we are on the field or in the weight room,” Rettig said. 

The fall 2019 season served as an opportunity for the team to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses, and get the freshmen acclimated to the collegiate level of play.

Among the freshmen, Leary expects significant contributions from catcher Adam Retzbach and middle infielder Zack Miles. Leary added that he anticipates five or six freshmen will be ready for significant roles come mid-season. 

Recalling his experience as a freshman on the team, sophomore third baseman Gerard Sweeney said it’s important to have the chance to get comfortable playing with his teammates prior to the commencement of the spring season. 

Sweeney stressed the family-like culture of the team, and said it plays an important role in keeping the players working together and playing as a unit. 

“We are a brotherhood, always loving and caring for one another on and off the field,” Sweeney said.

Leary said seniors like Tony Gallo, a two-time all-league player splitting time between first and second base, will make use of veteran experience to guide the younger players of the team throughout this season.

There is a heavy emphasis on putting the team first, and structure is critical in the goals set for the team, in terms of both athletic and academic performance, Leary said. 

Leary said he was thrilled to see the readiness of his athletes upon their return to campus from winter break. He said his players rose to the challenge of conditioning well during the weeks away.

“From October until now, it has been about very intense strength and movement training, and this group really had a strong mindset toward gaining during that time,” Leary said.

The Lehigh baseball team continues to count down the days until their season opener, all while readying themselves for what they hope to be a championship season.

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