DAVIDSON, N.C. – The Lehigh baseball team (2-2) put together a two-out, bases-loaded rally in the ninth inning but came up empty as the Mountain Hawks fell to Fairleigh Dickinson 6-3 on Sunday. Lehigh led 3-0 after the first two innings, but were unable to muster up anything in the later innings. Freshman Nick Stephens struck out seven in 5.1 innings while junior Alex Jacquez went 3-for-4 and freshman Connor Faust and senior Ryan Gadjos each had one RBI.
“We had a really strong start from Nick Stephens, but we didn’t execute well today and take advantage of some opportunities,” said head coach Sean Leary. “Their pitchers did a good job of keeping us off balance. We had some rallies going and might have been a hit or two away but then we hit the ball hard and it’s right at someone and turns into a double play.”
Lehigh scored in its first at-bat of the game after freshman Justin Pacchioli doubled, stole third and then scored on a RBI SAC fly from Gajdos.
The Mountain Hawks then tacked on two runs in the second. Sophomore Brandon Wilt led off with a walk and Jacquez doubled to put runners on second and third. Faust brought home Wilt on a RBI single and senior Chad Warga grounded into a double play which scored Jacquez.
All weekend, Lehigh had been stellar in the first two innings, outscoring opponents 10-3. But the Mountain Hawks totaled just five runs in the third inning or later over the four games.
“It’s a new lineup so we are still trying to figure out how to be consistent,” Leary said. “We are anxious to get back to work because we have a lot more potential offensively then we showed.”
FDU got on the board with a RBI groundout in the third and produced a run in the fourth after a single, walk, SAC bunt and RBI groundout.
In the bottom of the sixth with Lehigh still clinging to a 3-2 lead, FDU scored twice without a hit. After a hit by pitch, stolen base, strikeout and walk, FDU had runners on first and second with one out. Senior Luke Porter came into the game to relieve Stephens who pitched very well in his first collegiate start.
Porter walked the first batter he faced to load the bases, but then got a strikeout for the second out of the inning. Porter lost command though hitting back-to-back batters for two runs as Lehigh trailed 4-3. Sophomore Joey McNamara came in and got the third out on a strikeout to stop any further damage.
In the seventh with two outs, FDU was able to drive in an insurance run with a RBI single and added a run in the eighth as well.
In the top of the ninth, Lehigh was down to its final out after a strikeout and a groundout to start the inning. Then senior Joe Conaway had a pinch-hit single, Warga reached on an error by the third baseman and sophomore Tyler Brong had a pinch-hit single to load the bases with the top of the order coming up. But the rally fell short as Pacchioli grounded out.
The difference in the 6-3 game was FDU’s three two-out RBIs to none for Lehigh.
Porter suffered the loss while Eric Anderson picked up the win for FDU.
Gajdos finished the weekend 7-for-12 with three RBIs and two stolen bases to pace the Lehigh offense while Pacchioli finished 5-for-15 with three runs scored, four walks and four stolen bases.
The Mountain Hawks will next take the field Wednesday when Lehigh travels to face University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) for a doubleheader at noon and 3:30 p.m. Lehigh defeated UMES last season 14-3 at Goodman Campus.