BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh baseball team (3-12-1) dropped the first two of a four-game set to Iona (5-11) Saturday on Goodman Campus in the Mountain Hawks’ home opener. Lehigh squandered a lead late in both games, falling 6-4 in game one and 7-3 in game two. Senior Cory Kent started the day going the distance in a seven-inning game, allowing three earned runs and striking out six while freshman Nick Stevens went 6.1 IP in game two, allowing two earned runs and four hits.
Lehigh couldn’t take advantage of its pitchers stellar outings however as errors cost the Mountain Hawks in game one and the inability to drive runners in proved to be costly in game two.
“We had two very strong starting pitching efforts, but defense and clutch hitting didn’t give us an opportunity to win those games,” said head coach Sean Leary. “Leaving 16 runners on base and scoring just three runs in the second game is a sign that our offense is getting guys on which is good, but we just need to get that extra hit and produce some runs. It was a frustrating day, but we have to bounce back tomorrow.”
Lehigh combined for 18 hits on the day, including 13 in game two. Senior Chad Warga was 3-for-5 on the day with one RBI, freshman Justin Pacchioli was 3-for-6 with one RBI and two solen bases, senior Brendan McGaheran was 4-for-9 with two runs scored and senior Ryan Gajdos was 3-for-7 with three RBIs.
The Mountain Hawks however had a lot of chances to do more damage, leaving a combined 23 runners on base including hitting into three double plays.
In game one, sophomore Tyler Brong put Lehigh on the board in its first at-bat with a SAC fly. In the bottom of the second, the Mountain Hawks scored again after junior Brady Sady singled, Warga bunted him over to second and Gajdos drove him in with a single.
Iona got a run back in the top of the third with a solo home run.
Lehigh extended its lead in the bottom of the fourth with a two-out rally. After a fly out and ground out, Sady reached on an error and Warga reached on catcher’s inference. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch and Gajdos drove them in with a single as the Mountain Hawks took a 4-1 lead.
In the top of the fifth is where things started to unravel for the Mountain Hawks as Iona scored four runs, three of which were unearned. With one out, Iona had runners on second and third after a single and double. An error in right field allowed one run to score while the Gaels again had second and third. After a strikeout, Iona reached again on an error in right field, allowing two more unearned runs to score and Iona tacked on one more unearned run with a double as Lehigh trailed 5-4.
In the bottom half of the inning, Pacchioli reached second with nobody out after a walk and wild pitch but Lehigh was unable to drive him in. Iona tacked on a run in the sixth, but Lehigh still wasn’t going down without a fight.
Gajdos led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk and McGaheran followed up with a single. Both advanced on a Pacchioli ground out. Wilt then walked to load the bases but a strikeout and fly out ended the threat and the game for the Mountain Hawks.
Kent fell to 0-1 while Iona’s Eddie Macaluso (1-3) went six innings, allowing four earned runs on four hits and Tom Kriss picked up his second save of the season. Matt Kriss led the Gaels at the plate, going 1-for-2 with two RBIs and two runs scored.
Lehigh’s five hits in the game came from three players. Gajdos was 2-for-2 with three RBIs, McGaheran was 2-for-4, and Brong was 1-for-3.
The Mountain Hawks looked to rebound in game two and had a good chance in its first at-bat. The Mountain Hawks had runners on second and third with one out, but a strikeout and fly out ended the rally.
Both teams went scoreless through the first three innings until Lehigh took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth. Lehigh loaded the bases as Pacchioli came up with the RBI on a SAC fly.
Stevens held Iona in check for the first six innings, allowing just two hits but Lehigh could not increase its lead.
In the top of the seventh, Iona broke through with three runs as Joe Smith hit a two-out, three-run double.
The Mountain Hawks came back however to tie the game with a run in the seventh on a Warga RBI single and one in the eighth on a sophomore Joe Abeln RBI single. Lehigh had a chance to take the lead with runners on first and third and one out but Pacchioli was thrown out at the plate attempting to steal home.
In the top of the ninth, Iona loaded the bases after two errors and a walk with nobody out. Chris Burke then hit a grand slam to right center field to put Iona on top for good 7-3 as Lehigh was unable to get anything going in its last at-bat.
Dan Ciccone took the loss (0-2) while Derrick Bligh (1-1) earned the win, throwing two relief innings. Burke and Smith combined to drive in for all seven runs to pace the Gaels.
Warga and Pacchioli were both 3-for-4 while freshman Lance Kirschenbaum and McGaheran were both 2-for-5 as those four accounted for 10 of Lehigh’s 13 hits.
When Lehigh and Iona meet for the first time ever last season, the Mountain Hawks took the first two games and the Gaels took the second two.
Lehigh will look to reverse that Sunday as the Mountain Hawks will hope to earn a series split with two more games tomorrow, the first starting at noon.