The 2020 Lehigh baseball season was brought to a surprising halt in March following the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Mountain Hawks played just 15 games, posting a 5-10 record, but the team did not get the chance to compete within the Patriot League. Lehigh struggled early in the season but was beginning to find a groove prior to the cancellation, winning two of three in a series at North Carolina A&T.
Senior catcher Tim DiLoreto said he could feel the team gaining momentum following the series.
“We were beginning to find our stride as we approached Patriot League play,” DiLoreto said. “The offense was clicking, and our pitching staff was putting together some impressive outings. Only playing 15 games of a 50-plus game season, it’s hard to gauge where we were at — although, I wish we had gotten the opportunity to make a run in league play.”
Head coach Sean Leary’s team was among the youngest in the Patriot League, featuring nine freshmen and just five seniors.
Despite being granted an extra year of eligibility, the team is not expecting any of the seniors to return next season, said senior shortstop Matt Hand.
“When we heard about the season being canceled, everyone was pretty disappointed,” Hand said. “We knew that we had put a great deal of work into this season and couldn’t believe that it had all come to an end. I know, personally, it took awhile for it all to sink in but, as I reflect back on my experience, I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to play for this program.”
The departures of Hand, a four-year starter, and senior center fielder Mike Maguire will leave significant holes to fill defensively. Offensively, the Mountain Hawks will have a difficult time replacing the production of senior infielder Tony Gallo.
Gallo, a First-Team All-Patriot League selection in 2019, amassed 105 hits and drove in 68 runs in his Lehigh career.
Among the most notable returning names in Lehigh’s starting lineup will be freshman catcher Adam Retzbach.
A Pennsylvania native, Retzbach impressed in 2020 as he batted .296 with two home runs in 13 games.
“One thing that really helped me this year was learning from the older guys on the team,” Retzbach said. “They helped me adjust to the college game and were always willing to help me out, and that helped me relax and just play.
Lehigh will return nearly its entire pitching staff, with sophomores Luke Rettig and Mason Black headlining the group. Rettig totaled 27 strikeouts in four starts this season and finished the abbreviated year with a 3.52 ERA.
Instead of the team being in the midst of an important part of the season, Lehigh baseball finds itself self-quarantining and communicating weekly with coaches through virtual Zoom meetings. The team has also received workout instructions from strength and conditioning coach Eric Markovcy, which vary depending on the availability of equipment in players’ homes.
Retzbach said he has not let the situation stop him from working on his skills.
“I have not been able to catch anyone since I got home, but I have been going to the cage with my dad,” he said. “It has been fun to spend some time with him and be able to get my swings in. I’ve also made sure I keep throwing to keep my arm in good shape so I’m ready for summer ball.”
Despite Lehigh’s season being cut short, several freshmen got a taste of Division I baseball and will add to an experienced roster next season.
While the circumstances of this year’s season have been largely disappointing for the team, Hand believes the experience could be a springboard for future success.
“I think that this could be an advantage for the team next year, as our coaching staff has already begun prepping the team for the fall season,” he said. “We have an accountable group of guys that know the importance of working hard and coming back to campus in their best possible form. This could put the team in a good position.”