Lehigh baseball defeated Navy 10-5 in the first game of a three-game semi-finals series in the Patriot League Tournament at J. David Walker Field today.
Junior third baseman Joe Gorla finished the game 4-5 with two home runs, three RBIs and two runs scored.
Lehigh scored six two-out runs in the game, including two, two-out, two-run home runs in the fourth and sixth innings.
The Mountain Hawks played long ball in game one, hitting four home runs.
Lehigh hit 20 home runs in 37 games before this contest, placing them second in the Patriot League, one home run shy of Army.
Junior pitcher Matt Stamford picked up his fourth win of the year with five innings of shutout pitching, only allowing five base runners.
Head coach Sean Leary said Gorla and Stamford were the heroes of the game.
“Matt’s role has been the fourth starter, and we have mostly three-game weekends, so sometimes he starts and sometimes he’s called on in the most difficult situations of the game,” Leary said. ” “Matt stabilized the ballgame and let our offense take it from there.”
For game one Second-Team All-Patriot League selection, Charlie Connoly pitched for Navy. Connoly came in with a 3.62 ERA, fourth in the Patriot League.
Lehigh started with Patriot League Pitcher of the Year Mason Black, who came into the game with 90 strikeouts and a 2.51 ERA, which led the Patriot League.
In the fourth inning, Black broke Craig Anderson’s 61-year-old school record for strikeouts in a season when he recorded his 95th strikeout of the year.
“I think it is arguable that Craig Anderson is the most successful pitcher that’s ever worn the uniform here,” Leary said. “There are a couple of big leaguers we’ve had, but everyone would say Coach A (Craig Anderson) is that guy. So anytime your name is in the same sentence, it’s pretty awesome.”
Anderson, who turns 83 in July, drove down from Florida to be in attendance for the game to watch Black break his record.
“He said he was excited to pass the baton,” Leary said.
Black started the game off strong, striking out three batters through the first two innings, allowing only one hit through the first two frames.
Lehigh scored first when Gorla hit a leadoff home run in the second inning.
The Mountain Hawks continued their offense with back-to-back singles from sophomore catcher Adam Retzbach and freshman designated hitter Andrew Nole following the leadoff home run from Gorla.
Senior outfielder Quinn McKenna laid down a successful sacrifice bunt to advance the runners to second and third with only one out in the inning.
After freshman Tyler Young walked, Riley Davis came through with an RBI single to score Retzbach and extend the Lehigh lead to 2-0. Senior outfielder Eric Cichocki hit into a double-play to end the inning.
In the third inning, Lehigh threatened again after two hits-batsman and a single by Gorla. Nole grounded out into an inning-ending double-play to end the frame.
Black ran into trouble in the fourth inning after a leadoff error led to five hits, two walks, and five runs to give Navy a 5-2 lead going into the bottom of the fourth.
“I’ll say this with confidence, we won that game because we didn’t want to let Mason (Black) down,” Leary said. “He has carried us all year, and I don’t know if that was completely on him. We had some tough plays behind him, and there were some close calls for strike threes and ball fours, and it happens. I’m convinced that is the response you get from a team who is like, ‘thanks for getting us here.”
McKenna immediately answered in the bottom of the fourth with a leadoff home run to cut the lead to 5-3.
Following Cichocki getting hit by a pitch with two outs in the fourth, Gerard Sweeney hit a towering two-run home run to right field on the first pitch of the at-bat, tying the game at 5-5.
“We have some guys on the team who can drive the ball a little bit, and we have had a good week or so of practice,” Leary said. “With the weather warming up and the ball carrying a little bit, that was the difference for us. Guys drove the ball very well.”
Stamford relieved Black in the fifth inning and retired seven straight Navy batters to start his outing.
With two outs in the sixth inning, Gorla hit his second home run of the day, a two-run shot scoring Sweeney. After more two-out trouble for Navy, Young hit a hard ground ball that got by the third baseman for a two-run single, extending Lehigh’s lead to 9-5 after six innings.
In the eighth inning, Lehigh completed a double steal to gain a run and extend their lead to 10-5 when McKenna stole second, and the throwdown let Retzbach steal home.
After Stamford retired Navy in the ninth, Lehigh won game one of the series 10-5.
Lehigh lost 3-1 to Navy in game two of a best-of-three series in the Patriot League semi-finals in 10 innings.
Leary said Lehigh had superb pitching throughout the day. Senior Matt Svanson pitched six and one-third innings of one-run baseball. Senior Sam Wurth pitched three shutout innings before a 10th inning, two-run home run.
To start the game, Sweeney hit a home run in the bottom of the third inning to give Lehigh an early 1-0 lead. This was Sweeney’s second home run of the day, after hitting a home run in game one.
In the fifth inning, Lehigh had men on first and third with two outs when Navy pitcher Tommy Goodridge got Andrew Nole to strike out and end the inning.
“Game two was the opposite (of game one),” Leary said. “We didn’t quite get the key hits we needed. We had some guys on base early and didn’t push them across.”
In the seventh inning with one out, Svanson allowed a solo home run to Joe Simourian, and Wurth came in and shut the Navy threat down, keeping the game tied at one going into the bottom of the seventh inning.
In the tenth inning, Wurth recorded the first out before a single, and a home run ended his superb relief outing.
Lehigh plays Navy in a winner-take-all game tomorrow at J. David Walker Field at 1 p.m. for a chance to go to the Patriot League finals.
“We need Luke (Rettig) to do what our pitchers have done all year, get us a good start,” Leary said. “Quite frankly, secure the routine plays, which we did pretty well today overall, and then it will come down to getting a few clutch hits, whoever gets those will be moving on to the finals.”
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