Posted: April 5, 2009
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Mountain Hawks righted the ship on Sunday with two big wins over Navy in a Patriot League doubleheader. Lehigh overcame two deficits in game one to escape with a 6-5 victory over the Midshipmen – Lehigh’s first Patriot League win of the season – and Kevin Mihalik carried the Brown and White with a complete game shutout in the second game of the day, as Lehigh prevailed, 4-0. With the two wins, the Mountain Hawks improve to 8-23-1 overall and 2-4 in Patriot League play.
Mihalik gave up six hits and waked none as he finished out the first nine-inning complete game for the Mountain Hawks since May 14, 2006. The sophomore righty struck out three Midshipmen batters and threw 121 pitches to pick up his first win of the season in the second game.
“Kevin was throwing three pitches for strikes, which was fantastic,” Lehigh head coach Sean Leary said. “Any time you throw a complete game shutout it’s amazing, and it came at a time where we really needed it.”
Sunday’s proceedings did not start out nearly as well as they ended for Lehigh, as the Midshipmen jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Michael Speciale provided the spark in the opening frame with a 3-run opposite-field home run to right that put Lehigh into an early hole.
The Mountain Hawks answered with two runs in the bottom of the first, with Mihalik making his first mark on the day with his bat by ripping a single through the left side to score two. Lehigh added another run in the second to tie the score at three when Logan Marshall-Winchester pulled an RBI single into left center.
Navy jumped back on top with two runs in the third inning to take a 5-3 lead, but the Mountain Hawks answered again with three in the bottom half of the inning to take their first lead of the day. Pat Groome doubled down the left-field line to cut the deficit to one run and chase Navy starter T.J. Kerins from the game. A sacrifice bunt by Mark Bernhard locked the score at five runs and set the table for Marshall-Winchester’s RBI single for the eventual game-winning run.
Both pitching staffs settled in after the tumultuous first three innings. Cory Kent replaced Greg Angelo in the third inning and pitched three shutout innings in relief to earn the win, his fourth of the season. Kent allowed three hits and struck out three batters to bridge the gap from Angelo to Geoff Campbell.
Campbell pitched the final two innings in relief to earn the six-out save in game one. The senior escaped a bases loaded jam in the eighth inning by inducing a double play ball to end the inning and keep Lehigh ahead.
“I thought our bullpen did a terrific job in the first game,” Leary said. “Kent made some great pitches in tough spots, and Geoff’s been doing that for four years for us. He’s just a special kid.”
Both starters in the second game held the opposing offenses at bay, with neither team scoring for the first 5.5 innings. Mihalik rolled through the Navy lineup, facing just 33 batters in his nine innings of work. Navy’s starter Zach Sipe pitched nearly as well as Mihalik, holding Lehigh scoreless through five innings.
But the Mountain Hawks broke out in the sixth inning, scoring their only four runs of the game to pull out the win. Billy Swenson opened up the scoring with a liner that nearly pegged Andy Russell on a hit and run but skirted through the right side to score Campbell from third. Austin Borden kept things rolling with an RBI single to center field to double the lead, and Jim McConlogue extended the buffer to three runs with an RBI single of his own.
“It was a good sign of leadership when the two-three-four hitters come up with big hits,” Leary said. “What was even more exciting was getting those type of contributions from all parts of the lineup.”
Lehigh tacked on the fourth and final run on a steal attempt by McConlogue, where it looked like the sophomore was about to be thrown out by more than 10 feet. However, the throw sailed high, and Borden was able to trot home easily to make the score 4-0.
With the pitches piling up, Mihalik came back out for the ninth inning to finish out the game. He allowed one hit in the final frame, but got Alex Azor to line out to Pat Groome at second base for the final out of the day.
“You don’t want to lose a series in league play because of the tiebreakers,” Leary said. “This was a big day today, especially because Navy was playing really well coming into the weekend.”
Lehigh returns to action on Tuesday when the Mountain Hawks host Villanova on Goodman Campus in round two of the Liberty Bell Classic at 3:30 p.m.
Watch the Lehigh - Navy Post-Game Extra