Posted: May 27, 2006
PRINCETON, N.J. – Lehigh erased a three-run deficit and took a two-run lead into the bottom of the ninth, but the Mountain Hawks could not hold on as host Princeton rallied to top Lehigh by a 6-5 score at Clarke Field on Saturday afternoon. The game was the first of a two-game home-and-home series between the two schools in preparation for the NCAA Tournament, which begins June 2.
The Ivy League champion Tigers improve to 19-23-1 with the win. Lehigh, the first-time Patriot League champs, falls to 27-26 overall.
In a match-up between the first two teams to qualify for the 2006 NCAA Tournament, the Tigers got on the board first, jumping on Lehigh starter Kyle Collina for three runs in the home half of the third inning to go up 3-0. With one on and one out, Tigers right fielder Andrew Salini ripped an RBI double, plating Dan DeGeorge with the game’s first run. Later in the frame, first baseman Stephen Wendell brought home a pair on a bases loaded single.
Collina went the first five innings on the hill for the Mountain Hawks. The senior scattered six hits and struck out five.
Lehigh’s deficit remained three runs into the seventh, before the Mountain Hawks were able to dent the scoreboard. After catcher Matt McBride reached on an error with one away, all-league first baseman Andrew Smith smacked an 0-2 offering into right-center field, plating McBride with the first run of the game for the visitors. An infield hit, a squeeze bunt from second baseman Mike Sandoato, a walk, and a fielder’s choice brought home three more as Lehigh rallied to forge ahead at 4-3.
In the top of the eighth, McBride brought home center fielder Joe Ercolano with a single through the left side. The insurance run put the Mountain Hawks up by a 5-3 margin.
However, the hosts refused to give in, scoring three times in their final at-bat against the freshman duo of Greg Mortka and Geoff Campbell. Tigers DH Sal Iacono knocked a single into right center field, scoring catcher Zach Wendkos with the game-winning run.
Mortka pitched well over 3.1 innings, but was saddled with the loss, dropping his record to 2-1 overall. Princeton’s Steven Miller pitched a scoreless ninth to earn the win, and his record now stands at 2-7 on the season.
Smith and Sandonato led Lehigh’s efforts at the plate, each collecting a pair of hits.
The Tigers out-hit the Mountain Hawks 13 to 8 for the game, and Lehigh was held without a base runner over the game’s first three innings.
The two teams will meet again on Sunday for one final tune-up before the NCAA Tournament, with first pitch scheduled for 1:00 pm for Lehigh’s baseball field on the Goodman Campus in Bethlehem, Pa.