Lehigh baseball sophomore pitcher Shane O'Neill (42) throws a pitch during a game last season. The Lehigh baseball team defeated the nationally ranked University of Iowa on Feb. 18, 2024 in Charleston, SC. (Courtesy Lehigh Sports)

Lehigh baseball pitchers shine on opening weekend


In Lehigh baseball’s upset victory over University of Iowa on Feb. 18, the Mountain Hawks turned to the most experienced pitcher in their starting rotation, senior Teddy Tolliver.

Tolliver earned a spot in Lehigh’s rotation last season and had the highest ERA (earned run average) of all starters in conference play. In his first outing of 2024 he had to face a 40-win Iowa team that was ranked 20th in the country by the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and got an at-large bid to the previous NCAA tournament.

In the nine months between the end of the last season and the moment he stepped on the mound against Iowa, Tolliver said he improved multiple aspects of his pitching including the command of his off-speed pitches.

“Last year, I was mostly fastball, slider,” Tolliver said. “I started throwing a changeup a little, but now I’m more confident in all those. Plus, I added a curveball.”

In the previous two games of the opening weekend against Ball State University and Michigan State University, all of Lehigh’s other starters operated on a pitch count and were pulled after three innings. 

Tolliver was not. 

Despite conceding a first-inning run that gave the Hawkeyes an early lead, pitching coach Pat Knight said Tolliver wanted to keep going deeper into the game.

“Pretty much every inning after he came off, he looked at me right in the eyes and said, ‘I wanna keep going,’” Knight said.

Lehigh’s offense eventually put up a monstrous sixth inning that put them up 6-1, giving Tolliver the run support he needed to pick up the win. 

Tolliver finished the longest outing of his career in the seventh, leading Lehigh to their second win in two days against Big 10 opponents — a conference they have not beat a team from since 2008.

While Tolliver secured the win against Iowa, he is only one part of a Lehigh pitching squad that lost minimal players to graduation in the offseason. Aging up with Tolliver for the opening weekend are the two other starting pitchers for Lehigh, sophomore Cole Leaman and junior Alex Bouchard.

Leaman moved into the rotation after 16 appearances, making him the second most-played of all first-year players, only one game behind sophomore Shane O’Neill’s 17 appearances. Leaman had a 7.48 ERA last season.

The third piece of the rotation for now is Bouchard, who has been pitching for just over a year. He was a Division III shortstop for Dickinson College and is continuing to transition to pitching at a Division I level. Last year, Bouchard had the lowest ERA in conference play of any Lehigh starter.

Knight praised Bouchard’s attention to detail and ability to be coached, which have allowed him to improve some of his strengths that have made a quick impact. Still, Knight pointed out ways that Bouchard can improve even further heading into the next season.

“The last thing for him, in my opinion, is just to calm the nerves a little bit,” Knight said. “He needs to realize that his stuff is good enough to win at almost every level.”

On top of Tolliver’s win, Leaman pitched the first three innings of a shutout victory against Michigan State the day before. Bouchard struggled against the reigning Mid-American Conference champions Ball State, where he gave up three first-inning runs in what became an 8-4 loss.

Beyond the rotation, other Lehigh pitchers returning in the bullpen include junior Val Taddei, who picked up the win against Michigan State, and the nearly seven-foot-tall sophomore Jack Hamilton, who held Ball State to zero runs in 2.1 innings.

Perhaps no bullpen pitcher for the Mountain Hawks shined as much this weekend as first-year Julio Ermigiotti. 

Ermigiotti, described before the weekend by Bouchard as “that dog we need on the mound in the late innings,” was put in to relieve Tolliver. He entered with a four-run lead against a nationally ranked team in his very first collegiate pitching appearance.

He allowed two hits and a run, but got out of the inning before shutting out Iowa in both the eighth and ninth as Lehigh picked up an 8-4 win.

“We expect a lot of big things from him,” Knight said. “That was a huge test and he passed with flying colors.”

Beginning on March 22 against Lafayette, Lehigh has a 25-game conference schedule in a Patriot League they finished 10-15 in last season.

Bouchard said all of the team’s minds are set on another shot at the championship.

“It’s a long season, there’s going to be bumps in the road and not everything’s going to be smooth,” Bouchard said. “Just getting out there and winning that title, that’s where we got our eyes set on.”

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