Lehigh baseball returns this spring with 13 first-year players, but a few will come in knowing each other better than others.
First-year pitchers Tommy Lamar and Anthony Gonzalez and catcher Owen Walewander join the Mountain Hawks after playing on the same high school baseball team.
Walewander was the first of the group from Chatham High School in Chatham, New Jersey, to commit to Lehigh, and Lamar and Gonzalez soon followed. While all three players were recruited as members of the Class of 2026, Gonzalez and Lamar both took gap years before attending Lehigh.
Head baseball coach Sean Leary said the thought of recruiting three players from the same high school — let alone the same class — never crossed his mind.
He said the Lehigh baseball coaches have a good relationship with the high school’s head coach Todd Leathers and have previously recruited from his program, but ending up with the three is an anomaly.
Last year’s captain Matt Stamford, ‘22, also came from Chatham. Leary said Stamford was influential in their decisions to have Lamar, Gonzalez and Walewander play at Lehigh.
“The previous players here really helped us land those guys,” Leary said. “I think once you build a pipeline with a coach or an area, hopefully the reputation carries some weight.”
Lamar said having people he knew before college on his team has made the environment more comfortable and gave him more confidence on the field.
“Coming in, I had a great support system from Owen (Walewander) and Anthony (Gonzalez),” Lamar said. “It was nice to already have two friends on the team, but I was also excited to be around new guys.”
Walewander said he spent time catching for both Lamar and Gonzalez in high school, which made catching for them at Lehigh feel natural.
While Leary said that the trio’s prior relationship adds to the overall chemistry of the team, Gonzalez said he hasn’t thought about it much, since he gives more thought to gameplay.
“You don’t really think about who you are playing with,” Gonzalez said. “Most of the time it’s about going out there and competing with the other eight guys on the field, but it is definitely nice knowing some of the guys in the locker room at the same time.”
Gonzalez said that while the group is familiar with each other, they knew it was crucial to form relationships with the other members of the team.
He said they prioritized forming relationships with their 30 other team members.
Walewander agreed with Gonzalez, as he said he believes their prior relationship has not largely impacted the team’s chemistry since the team was already close-knit. He said a lot of players were surprised to learn that they played at the same high school.
For this reason, Lamar said the trio decided against rooming together at Lehigh, which allowed them to meet new people and have a normal college experience.
“We are all going through the same adversity of being a first-year player,” Walewander said. “We are all looking out for each other and just learning what college baseball is like together.”
The Mountain Hawks will kick off their season on Feb. 17 in Daytona Beach, Florida, with a three-game series against Bethune-Cookman University.