Lehigh baseball will play four games this weekend against rival Lafayette in their second conference series of the year.
The Mountain Hawks won nine of their first 13 games to start this season but lost their sixth straight game when they fell 9-7 to Villanova on March 28.
The team is 11-14 with a conference record of 0-4, placing them last in the Patriot League, right behind Lafayette, who sits at 1-3 in league play.
Head coach Sean Leary said he still has faith in the team due to their strong nonconference results.
“Baseball is a game of ups and downs and unfortunately, we haven’t played to our program’s standards the past seven days,” Leary said. “However, we believe in each other and we just need to trust that we have put in the work and that we’ll get things back on track.”
Over the past 18 seasons, Lehigh has faced Lafayette a total of 80 times, with the Mountain Hawks holding the advantage with a 45-34 record, including one tie.
Leary said this series can be the turning point in the season. He thinks playing well against the school’s rival is the key to stringing together victories moving forward. He said their success comes down to their attention to detail.
Fifth-year outfielder Casey Rother said this series could not have come at a better time, and it is what the team needs to change the trajectory of their season.
“We have four opportunities to get four wins this weekend against our rivals,” Rother said. “There’s no better place to turn the season around.”
Rother, a two-time Patriot League Player of the Year, has faced Lafayette several times since he arrived at Lehigh. He said although he approaches every series with the same mentality, he knows how significant this series is to him and the rest of the team.
Sophomore outfielder Andrew Kohl has the same idea. He said he hopes this series acts as the bounceback the team needs following their recent slump.
“We are still super confident in ourselves and our abilities,” Kohl said. “We trust all the hard work we have been putting into practice.”
The team will be matching up against a familiar face in Lafayette’s dugout.
Lafayette’s head coach AJ Miller joined the Leopards last year after spending seven seasons on Lehigh baseball’s staff as assistant coach, recruiting coordinator and associate head coach during his tenure.
Miller was named Patriot League Player of the Year while playing for Lafayette during his undergraduate career.
He was named assistant head coach at Lehigh in June 2021 and helped guide the Mountain Hawks to one of their best seasons in program history, ending the year with 24-19 with a 17-10 conference record and a Patriot League regular season title.
Assistant head coach Trey Durrah had high praise for Miller.
Both being Lafayette alumni, the two knew each other before accepting their positions. Durah said Miller played an integral role in convincing him to take the job.
Still, Durrah knows how much this will affect the team’s motivation.
“I would be naive to say it doesn’t matter,” Durrah said. “There is going to be different energy going into those games on Friday, not just the rivalry because obviously he is there.”
Durrah said there is no bad blood between Lehigh and Miller, but the matchup will still hold the competitiveness of the rivalry.
Rother said the seniors and fifth-years are looking forward to playing against Miller.
“Coach always says one of the main questions you are going to get asked when you graduate is ‘What was your record against Lafayette,’” Kohl said. “If we are going to sweep a series, this is the series we want to win.”
Lehigh is set to take on the Leopards at home on March 31 at 3 p.m., kicking off a four-game series that will conclude April 2.