BETHLEHEM, Pa. – For the second straight day, the Lehigh baseball team earned a victory as the Mountain Hawks (10-19-1, 2-2 PL) defeated Delaware State (15-13-1, 5-1 MEAC) Wednesday 3-2 on Goodman Campus. Freshman Rene Tato earned his first collegiate win throwing 6.0 innings, allowing one unearned run. Junior Casey Turner was 2-for-4 including a crucial RBI single for an insurance run in the eighth while senior Cory Kent picked up the save.
“Rene did a great job for us, I am really proud of him,” said head coach Sean Leary. “He gave us six strong innings and pounded the strike zone. We were fortunate to manufacture runs and played to our system. We got so many contributions up and down the lineup, it was great to see.”
It was Tato’s first career start as the Miami, Fla. native entered the game throwing 5.1 innings in three appearances. Tato’s ERA after the start now stands at 1.59.
Tato passed the torch to sophomore Joey McNamara who worked into and out of trouble in the seventh. Senior Dan Ciccone pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and Kent allowed a run in the ninth, but earned his third save of the season and 21st of his career, which ranks #3 all-time in the Patriot League.
Along with Turner, senior Brendan McGaheran was also 2-for-4 as the duo combined for four of Lehigh’s seven hits on the afternoon. Sophomore Joe Abeln and junior Alex Jacquez each added a RBI.
In the top of the second, Delaware State put runners on second and third with nobody out after a walk, single and then a balk advanced each runner a base. Junior Thomas O’Malley made a diving catch on a blooper in right field to hold the runners. Then on a groundball third base, senior Ryan Gajdos threw out the runner at the plate and Tato went on to get out of the jam with a foul pop out to third.
In the bottom of the third, Lehigh scored a pair of runs to take a 2-0 lead. McGaheran and Gajdos hit back-to-back singles and then each stole a base to put runners on second and third with one out. Abeln hit a groundball to the third basemen who went home with the ball as McGaheran slid safely under the tag. Jacquez then hit a groundball to second base to score Gajdos.
Freshman Conor Faust led off the fourth with a double and freshman John Elson moved him to third with a SAC bunt but Lehigh was unable to take advantage of the runner on third with less than two outs.
In the top of the sixth, Delaware State threatened with the bases loaded and two outs. The Hornets drove in a run on an infield single but Tato got out of the jam with a strikeout.
For the second straight inning, Delaware State had the bases loaded with two outs but this time it was McNamara who got out of the jam with a groundball to first base.
“They both continued to throws strikes and sometimes when things start to unravel, you begin to get tight and miss the zone,” Leary said. “But they forced the hitters to put the ball in play and they got the job done in those difficult situations.”
In the bottom of the eighth, Lehigh tacked on an insurance run to take a 3-1 lead. Abeln led off with a walk. Pinch hitter freshman John McCann successfully bunted him over to second as Abeln hustled to take third on the play. With the infield in, Turner lined a RBI single up the middle.
“It was great for McCann to execute like that off the bench and then Abeln is on his own with that read to third,” Leary said. “He made an outstanding read to set up an infield-in situation and we were able to take advantage.”
Lehigh’s run proved to be crucial. With the top of the lineup at the plate in the ninth to face Kent, Delaware State led off the inning with a double. A SAC bunt moved the runner to third and the run scored on a ground ball to third base. But Kent closed the door, striking out Delaware State’s cleanup hitter to end the game.
Ryan Haas took the loss (1-1) for the Hornets, throwing 7.0 innings and allowing two runs on six hits with six strikeouts. Delaware State had nine hits for the game, paced by a 2-for-3 day from Eddie Sorondo and a 2-for-5 game from Troy Drummond. Delaware State left 11 runners on base.
Wednesday marked the 22nd meeting between the schools as Lehigh holds the 12-8-2 all-time edge. The Mountain Hawks are 1-0-1 against the Hornets this season as the two teams tied 11-11 in 11 innings earlier this season.
With two wins in consecutive days, as Lehigh beat Temple Tuesday, Lehigh will look to ride the momentum as it continues Patriot League play this weekend. The Mountain Hawks will head to Army for a four-game set with doubleheaders on Saturday starting at noon and Sunday starting at 1 p.m.
“We just played two very good teams who have been winning a lot of ball games,” Leary said. “Our young team needs to learn how to win these close games. We will have our work cut out for us this weekend vs. Army but we built some momentum and the team is starting to believe in themselves so we are looking forward to the challenge.”