Sophomore third baseman Gerard Sweeney waits for an incoming pitch. After a severely abbreviated season, Sweeney and the rest of the baseball team are focusing on 2021. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Lehigh falls to Army in Patriot League Championship

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Lehigh baseball was defeated by Army in the Patriot League championship series in a winner-take-all game three. 

Game 1:

Lehigh baseball defeated Army 3-1 in game two of the Patriot League finals forcing a winner-take-all game three. 

Senior Matt Svanson pitched eight innings, giving up one run on four hits, striking out four batters. 

“He was one of the best arms we faced all year.” Army head coach Jim Foster said. 

In the first inning, Svanson surrendered his lone run when Tim Simoes reached and Hunter Meade scored from third base. 

Lehigh immediately responded with two runs in the first inning when sophomore Adam Retzbach singled to left-center field, scoring Patriot League Player of the Year Casey Rother.

In the fourth inning, junior Gerard Sweeney grounded out to shortstop, scoring freshman Tyler Young from third base and extending Lehigh’s lead to 3-1.

Svanson shutdown the Army offense surrounding only four hits through eight innings of work, throwing 132 pitches. 

Sophomore Will Grisak relieved Svanson after a leadoff single in the ninth and didn’t allow a run, securing a 3-1 victory for Lehigh. 

Game 2:

Lehigh baseball was defeated by Army 6-1 in game three of a best-of-three series.

Junior Luke Rettig started game three of the Patriot League championship, pitching 6.2 innings giving up four runs on nine hits. 

Senior Sam Wurth pitched the final 2.1 innings giving up two runs on two hits. In the first inning, Army successfully manufactured a run scoring on a sac fly after a leadoff double and a sacrifice bunt, taking an early 1-0 lead.

In the second inning, Lehigh ran into trouble when Army loaded the bases with no outs. Rettig limited Army to only two runs and Army extended its early lead to 3-0. 

In the fifth inning, Army loaded the bases with one out. Rettig worked out of trouble only giving up one run after a sacrifice fly and a strikeout ended the threat. Army led 4-0 after four and a half innings. 

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Lehigh hit back-to-back singles before junior Casey Rother hit a sacrifice fly to trim the lead to 4-1. Army escaped further trouble when center fielder Hunter Meade made a diving catch to save a run and end the inning. 

“When we walked off the field I told him (Meade) ‘That’s how you win championships,’” Bartoli said in reference to the diving catch. 

In the top of the seventh inning senior Sam Wurth relieved Rettig with two outs and the bases loaded and got Army to ground out to freshman Riley Davis and end the inning. 

In the top of the ninth inning, Wurth gave up a two-out two-run home run to Ross Friedrick, extending Army’s lead to 6-1. Freidrick was named the Patriot League tournament MVP. 

Army pitcher Ray Bartoli pitched a complete game, only surrendering one run. 

“I thought we put a couple good swings on him that just didn’t fall, which was kind of a bummer,” Lehigh senior outfielder Eric Cichocki said. “Hat’s off to him for going nine innings in the championship. It just really stinks that we couldn’t get to him earlier.”

With the win, Army secured their third straight Patriot League championship.

“You immediately think of the seniors last year,” Foster said. “This championship is for them.”

Gerard Sweeney, Matt Svanson, and Joe Gorla were all named to the All-Tournament Team. 

Lehigh finished the season winning their first regular-season championship since 2006, and finished with the coach of the year (Sean Leary), player of the year (Rother), and pitcher of the year (Mason Black).

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