On a dreary and gray afternoon with few appearances from the sun, Lehigh split its doubleheader with Bucknell, losing the first 14-8 and winning the second 5-4.
Lehigh finished the weekend 2-2, after also splitting its doubleheader with Navy on Saturday.
In the first inning of the game, a flurry of hits from Bucknell got the Bison out to a quick 3-0 lead, before Lehigh responded with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning off of an RBI from junior Adam Retzbach.
Bucknell came back with another four runs in the top of the second, leaving Lehigh with a 7-1 deficit early. Coach Sean Leary saw this as the turning point in the game.
“Having that deficit, you can see the mindset of the team is a little bit off,” Leary said. “When you’re down that much, sometimes you need a lot of energy just to get it back to 9-7.”
Lehigh did this by continuing to fight back, putting up two runs in the second, one in the third and three in the fourth to bring the deficit to 9-7.
This effort was in large part led by the bat of senior Gerard Sweeney, whose two-RBI double in the second and solo home run in the fourth contributed to this rally.
Sweeney’s bat was not enough, as a run in the top of the fifth and a four-run inning in the seventh by the Bison put the first game away.
The Mountain Hawks tried to battle back once again in the bottom of the seventh, but they were able to put up just one run in the frame. In the pouring rain, Lehigh went down 14-8 in the front end of the doubleheader.
Bucknell’s run total was indicative of the pitching woes that the Mountain Hawks have endured over the 2-7 stretch that they entered the back end of Sunday’s doubleheader on, in which they had given up seven runs a game, on average.
Leary said he is concerned with the pitching struggles, but he is optimistic about them going forward.
“Some of it is just the learning curve of getting back out there and our guys getting some experience,” Leary said. “But also, the number of innings and games we’ve played over the last two and a half weeks is the peak we’ll have all year. It’ll help us in the long run, but we start to show a little bit of the depth issues when we get to games three and four (of the weekend).”
The Mountain Hawks felt the depth issues in the bullpen less in the second half of the doubleheader. Left-handed senior pitcher Matt Stamford started the game and went seven innings strong, giving up just two runs.
“It was just a matter of trusting my stuff,” Stamford said. “Coach Leary and I had talked a lot throughout the week about strategy and approaching these guys, so it was all about knowing what I can do and what I’ve done before.”
Stamford’s performance allowed Lehigh to get out to a 2-1 lead via a trio of doubles in the bottom of the second. They eventually extended the lead to 4-1 in the sixth via a three-hit inning, a walk and a sacrifice bunt, providing a cushion that they never gave up.
However, it was not smooth sailing the rest of the way, as Stamford gave up 11 hits through his seven innings of work, causing him to have to work in and out of trouble and leave runners stranded.
“It’s about trusting your defense,” Stamford said. “They’re there for a reason, they’re there to make plays.”
After Stamford’s seven innings, Leary went to the bullpen.
The first pitcher out, freshman Jack Hamilton, walked the first batter he faced on four pitches, but smoothly bounced back by recording three quick outs against the next three hitters.
Then, with two outs in the top of the ninth, Bucknell’s Grant Voytovich’s two-run home run cut the lead to one. Jacob Corson followed the homer with a single, putting the tying run on base.
Lehigh then turned to 2021 Patriot League Player of the Year, Casey Rother, to finish the deal.
That he did, as he struck out Bucknell’s final batter to seal a win for Lehigh on the day.
The Mountain Hawks are back in action in Philadelphia on April 5 where they’ll face Saint Joseph’s University.