Senior baseball outfielder Eric Cichocki swings at a pitch. The Moutain Hawks are in first place in the Patriot League South Division. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

First place baseball has eyes on postseason

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Lehigh baseball remains in first-place in the Patriot League South Division despite losing two of their past three Patriot League games. 

Star pitchers Mason Black and Matt Svanson have led the way for the Mountain Hawks pitching staff, with Black, a junior leading the Patriot League in wins, innings pitched, and strikeouts.

Svanson, a senior, is third in innings pitched, second in strikeouts, and his 3.15 ERA is the eighth-best in the Patriot League. 

Lehigh’s bats have been led by junior first baseman Casey Rother and senior right fielder Eric Cichocki. 

As of April 28, Cichocki leads the Patriot League in average, hitting .360, while Rother is fourth in League, hitting .349 and adding a Patriot League leading four home runs. 

With the pandemic cutting the baseball season short in 2020, the team began their 2021 season on a successful note due to increased offseason preparation. 

With more practice time and in the batting cage, the team began the season without any signs of rust.

Junior pitcher Matt Stamford said the pandemic allowed him to get ready for the season earlier, as well as train with better intention. 

“I think coming off of last year when our season was cut short due to the pandemic really motivated everyone on the team to get back out hungrier and stronger than ever,” Stamford said.

With the Patriot League Championship on the horizon, the team is preparing to build on their successful regular season with a deep postseason run. 

Despite being able to prepare for longer, players did not have typical access to practice facilities. 

Stamford said there were no specific days designated to certain lifting regimens or batting cage practices due to the pandemic. 

Players had to get creative, and many of them had individualized practice regimes assigned by the coaching staff. Presently, players must get their temperature checked prior to entering any locker room.

“Throughout the summer and fall, our coaches kept telling us that whichever team handled the adversity of the pandemic the best would win the Patriot League this year,” Stamford said, “I believe we handled it the best out of anyone given the circumstances. We all worked hard during the offseason to train, and now we have made it here.”

As of April 28, The Mountain Hawks sit at 15-14 overall and 12-8 in conference play. 

Black  said the players have an open mindset and a willingness to work hard every day, which has contributed to their first-place record. 

Overall, our primary focus has been on just winning ‘game ones’ this year,” Black said. “In past years, we have really never won this many games in a row as we have this season. We would get dominated in past years, and now we are trying to change our mindset. We want to improve and win every series. This has been a mantra of our team this year.”

Pitching coach Sean Buchanan said each individual on the team has their own talent and personality, and time together has allowed the growth of chemistry and success on game-days.

Buchanan is excited for the players to continue to feed off of each other’s success and stay motivated to win the Patriot League Championship. 

“It is the work ethic and the culture of the players,” Buchanan said. “Everyone pushes one another, and each player has each players’ backs. They see an opportunity in front of them right now, and they are all trying their best to chase it down.”

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