Posted: May 8, 2004
West Point, NY – Lehigh built a 5-1 lead in the fourth inning, but could not hold on, as Lafayette rallied for a 7-6 victory over the Mountain Hawks in the opening round of the 2004 Patriot League baseball tournament.
With the setback, Lehigh’s season comes to an end, while the victory propels the second-seeded Leopards into a best two-of-three series with host and top-seeded Army.
The afternoon began in a promising fashion for the Mountain Hawks, as senior shortstop Eric Hoffman led off the game with a solo homer to left field. The blast was Hoffman’s sixth of the season, and it fought through a stiff wind that wreaked havoc on play all afternoon at Doubleday Field.
Lafayette rallied to tie the score with an unearned run in the bottom of the inning when Rob Fioretti scored all the way from first on a wild throw from third baseman John Zaszewski.
The Mountain Hawks quickly regained the lead in the top of the second, when designated hitter Steve Salemme singled to center field, plating David Moscow with the go-ahead run. Lehigh added a run in the third when Moscow singled home second baseman Jesse Novalis, who had doubled to make the score 3-1.
In the fourth, senior Jeff Baker singled to start the frame, and Hoffman doubled. With runners at second and third and nobody out, John Zaszewski grounded out plating Baker, and catcher Matt McBride singled to left field, driving home Hoffman.
Lehigh was leading 5-1 heading into the bottom of the fourth, when Lafayette’s potent offense began to erupt. The Leopards sent 10 batters to the plate, ripping five hits in the inning and taking advantage of a costly Lehigh error to score five times. Suddenly, the Mountain Hawks trailed for the first time all afternoon, falling behind 6-5.
Lehigh did fight back, tying the score in the eighth inning. Salemme led off the inning with a perfectly-executed bunt down the third base line. Later in the frame, a Novalis sacrifice fly to right tied the score at 6-6.
The Leopards quickly squelched the Mountain Hawks’ momentum, however, with a two-out rally in the bottom of the eighth. With two outs and nobody on, the number eight hitter Craig Alexander smacked a double, and Eric Vacca singled home Alexander with what proved to be the winning run.
“We just didn’t execute today as well as we should have,” said a disappointed Lehigh head coach Sean Leary after the game. “We needed to put more runs on the board [early in the game], and our defense didn’t play the type of game we’re used to seeing.”
Lehigh committed two errors in the game defensively, while the offense stranded 12 runners on base. Sophomore Kyle Collina (2-4) was saddled with the loss.
Lehigh concludes its 2004 season with a 25-21 record. The 25 victories mark the second-most in the 119 year history of the program.