Posted: May 15, 2010
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – After dropping a tough 2-1 decision to Holy Cross in the opener on Saturday, the Lehigh baseball team rallied for a 4-1 victory in game two of the 2010 Patriot League Tournament semifinal round, setting up a winner-take-all scenario on Sunday. Seniors Andrew Berger and Ken Longernecker gave the Mountain Hawks a pair of stellar pitching performances on the day as they combined to throw 16 innings and surrendered only two earned runs between them. Following Saturday’s action Lehigh sits at 23-26, while Holy Cross is now 24-24.
“Andrew has been outstanding for us all year and today was no different,” 2010 Patriot League Coach of the Year Sean Leary said afterwards. “He threw a complete game today and deserved a better fate, but Holy Cross’ pitcher went pitch-for-pitch with Andrew and was very impressive himself.” Leary continued, “I thought we did a nice job of bouncing back in game two. Kenny gave us seven strong innings and Cory (Kent) came in and sealed it for us. We knew coming in we had to win two this weekend and we got one out of the way today. Now we have another chance tomorrow to try and close this thing out.”
Berger was exceptional in game one as he tossed a complete game and allowed just one earned run. The senior captain scattered six hits over nine innings, struck out five and walked just two. Lehigh’s bats were never able to get going against Holy Cross starter Nate Koneski though as the lefty threw a complete game as well and struck out three in the process.
Holy Cross got on the board first when the Crusaders scored in the top half of the third inning. After Berger retired the first two batters, Jack Laurendeau reached on a walk and John Sills singled to right, sending Laurendeau to third. Matt Perry then hit a grounder that Lehigh first baseman Kevin Mihalik could not handle and the visitors took a 1-0 lead.
Lehigh tied things at one in the fifth when Brendan Pifer led off with a double and eventually came around to score on Billy Goldman’s double. The Crusaders answered with what proved to be the game-winning run in the very next inning however. Stephen Wadsworth walked to start things off and Eric Oxford was then hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with no one out. Following a sac bunt by Steve Tkowski that moved both runners up Nick Ciardiello lofted a sac fly to center that brought Wadsworth home and made it a 2-1 game.
From there Koneski made the lead stand as he retired 12 of the final 14 batters he faced and gave Holy Cross a 1-0 lead in the series.
“There was a little frustration after game one; we knew we could have won that one,” Leary explained. “In a game that close and that low-scoring, the little things are going to stand out. In game two I thought we did the little things real well. The things that are a part of our system – getting runners on, moving them over, those types of things paid off for us.”
Lehigh wasted little time in getting ahead in game two as Brendan McGaheran was hit by a pitch to lead off and advanced to second on Goldman’s ground out. McGaheran then stole third and two batters later Mihalik drove him in to give the Mountain Hawks an early 1-0 lead.
Holy Cross tied things at one in its half of the second when Ciardiello came around on a double by Brendan McCrea. That proved to be the Crusaders final run of the day though and Lehigh came right back with a run in the top of the third to go on top 2-1. With two outs Goldman doubled to left to start the rally. Following a walk to Andrew Russell, Goldman and Russell stole third and second, respectively, to put a pair of runners in scoring position for Mihalik. Mihalik then swung and missed at the third strike, but the ball got past Holy Cross’ catcher and Goldman came in to put the Mountain Hawks on top.
Lehigh added single runs in the sixth and eighth to give itself a comfortable 4-1 lead. Mihalik led the sixth off with a single and moved into scoring position on Logan Winchester’s sac bunt. Jim McConlogue then drilled a pitch into right field for a single and Mihalik crossed to make it a 3-1 game.
Winchester led the eighth off with a walk and was sacrificed to second by McConlogue. After Austin Borden was hit by a pitch and Pifer was intentionally walked Chad Warga came to the plate with the bases loaded. The Lehigh catcher lifted a fly ball to centerfield which plated Winchester to give Lehigh a three-run lead. Sophomore Cory Kent worked the final two innings as he struck out two and did not allow a hit to earn his school record ninth save of the season.
“The day did not start out the way I wanted it to,” Miahlik explained in reference to his rough first game. “But Coach stayed with me and I have confidence in myself that I can get the job done. I’m just happy that I could play a part in helping us get that game two win.” He added, “I thought our pitchers were great today. They worked fast, they threw strikes and it was fun to be out there behind them. We’re looking forward to tomorrow’s do-or-die game. There are no surprises between these two teams – we know them and they know us very well.”
Longernecker’s final line included seven innings pitched, only one earned run, four strike outs and seven hits. The senior earned his seventh victory of the season with his performance. “I felt good out there,” Longernecker said afterwards. “It was rough after the loss in game one, I knew I was pitching in an elimination game and so I just wanted to give our team a chance to win.” He continued, “It feels good to get this win. There was a little more pressure because it was an elimination game but I knew that if I threw deep into the game that we would have a chance to come out on top.”
Holy Cross’ Matt Shapiro suffered the game two loss after throwing 5.1 innings and allowing three earned runs while striking out just one.
Lehigh - Holy Cross Post-Game Extra
Lehigh and Holy Cross will get things started at 12:05 on Sunday afternoon on the Goodman Campus with the winner advancing to the 2010 Patriot League championship series. Sunday’s game will be broadcast live on Lehighsports.com with Jeff Tourial and Steve Lomangino on the call. “We have two terrific options to go with on the mound in Mike Lebo and Greg Angelo tomorrow,” Leary said. “I feel very confident in what those two can give us.”