PHILADELPHIA – Lehigh advanced to the second round of the Liberty Bell Classic with a 7-4 road victory against La Salle on Tuesday. Greg Angelo pitched six strong innings for the Mountain Hawks to earn the win, his first of the season. The lefty gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks, while striking out seven, as Lehigh improved to 6-21-1 on the season.
“He’s pitched well enough for us in this time that he deserved a lot more wins than he has,” Lehigh head coach Sean Leary said of Angelo. “We picked him up after a rough inning and he really settled in after that. It was a big lift for him to get the win today.”
Ken Longernecker relieved Angelo in the seventh, and the junior righty slammed the door shut for the three-inning save. Longernecker gave up two hits over three shutout innings, striking out one along the way.
“Today was a day where we wanted to make sure guys got work for this weekend,” Leary said. “We were pleased. We thought they both threw the ball pretty well today.”
The Lehigh offense racked up 17 hits in the win, with every Mountain Hawks starter recording at least one hit. Six Lehigh players recorded multi-hit games, with Geoff Campbell (3-for-5) and Kevin Mihalik (3-for-4) leading the way with three hits apiece.
Mihalik drove in a team-high three runs for the Mountain Hawks, and Jim McConlogue chipped in with a two-run home run in the second inning.
“We swung the bats really well today, which was a real lift for us,” Leary said. “We didn’t capitalize on all our opportunities, but we certainly did a good job of putting the ball in play.”
Lehigh dug itself another early hole, falling behind to the Explorers in the bottom of the first inning. But this time the Mountain Hawks rallied back with a vengeance and scored five consecutive runs to take a 5-1 lead through 2.5 innings.
The Lehigh offense woke up in the second inning when Billy Swenson got things going on an RBI single to right center, scoring Kevin Mihalik from third. Two batters later, McConlogue went yard for the first time this season to drive in two runs and give Lehigh a 3-1 lead in the top of the second.
The Mountain Hawks tacked on two more runs in the third when Mihalik dumped a single into left field, scoring Geoff Campbell and Andy Russell. Lehigh took a 5-1 lead in the top half of the inning and knocked La Salle starter Kevin Christy from the game with no outs in the third.
“(McConlogue’s) hit and Kevin’s hit were two really big hits for us,” Leary said. “They gave us a lead we never gave up after that.”
The Explorers answered with a rally of their own in the bottom half of the third, scoring three runs to cut the lead to just 5-4. Justin Handler ripped a double into the left-center field gap to score the first run. An RBI single by Tony Negrin and a double steal by the Explorers accounted for the next two runs as Lehigh’s lead dwindled to one run after three.
Lehigh added an insurance run in the top of the seventh when Mihalik grounded out to the third baseman with the bases loaded. The fielder’s choice enabled Logan Marshall-Winchester to score and improved the Lehigh lead to 6-4. A Mark Bernhard RBI single in the top of the eighth gave Lehigh a three-run lead with six outs to play and allowed the coaching staff to breathe easier.
Longernecker faced 11 batters in his three innings of work, allowing four baserunners and inducing two double-play balls to escape any damage. Longernecker allowed the tying run to come to the plate in the ninth before getting T.J. Chism to ground into a game-ending fielder’s choice.
Lehigh advances to the second round of the Liberty Bell Classic, where it will take on the winner of the Villanova/Temple game on April 7.
“We told our guys no game is more important than another,” Leary said. “But as far as out of league games go it has a little value to it. It certainly adds a little bit to the game.”
The Mountain Hawks are now 12-11 all time in the 17 years of the Liberty Bell Classic. Lehigh has advanced to the final in four of the last five years, and won its only championship in 2004.
Lehigh returns to action on Wednesday, when it hosts La Salle in a rematch at Goodman Campus at 3:30 p.m.