BETHLEHEM, Pa. – After winning a pair of games Saturday, the Lehigh baseball team (8-19-1, 2-2 PL) dropped two on Sunday to Lafayette (8-17-1, 2-2 PL) to split the weekend series. The Mountain Hawks had the bases loaded with nobody out in the bottom of the seventh in game one but were unable to take advantage, falling 8-6. In game two, sophomore Nick Cassell had a solid start but Lehigh’s offense couldn’t muster up run support in an 8-1 loss.
"We let one slip away in the first game; both teams couldn’t find a groove and the game was up for grabs, but give them credit for scrapping and find a way to win,” said head coach Sean Leary. “In game two, their pitcher threw very well. We couldn’t get into a rhythm. It was a little frustrating but we will get our guys ready moving forward.”
In game one, Lehigh spotted Lafayette a 5-0 lead after 2.5 innings. The Leopards had a two-out, two-run RBI double in the first and then scored three unearned runs with two outs in the second. In the bottom half of the second, Lehigh cut the deficit to 5-2. With one out and the bases loaded, sophomore Brandon Wilt reached on an error by the shortstop, allowing two unearned runs to score.
After Lafayette went down in order in the top of the third, Lehigh tacked on another unearned run in the bottom of the inning. Sophomore Joe Abeln reached on another error by the shortstop and would come around to score two batters later on an error by the first baseman as Lehigh trailed 5-3 after three innings.
In the top of the fourth, Lafayette extended its lead to 7-3 scoring two runs on a pair of RBI singles, one coming with two outs.
The Mountain Hawks came back in the bottom of the fourth and scored three runs all without the benefit of a hit. Lehigh earned five walks - including four straight - plus a passed ball to cut the deficit to one run. Lehigh had runners on second and third with two outs, but were unable to find the big hit to tie or take the lead.
Senior Dan Ciccone relieved junior Thomas O’Malley in the sixth and worked into and out of trouble as Lafayette loaded the bases with two outs, but Ciccone got a pop out to shortstop to end the threat.
In the top of the seventh, Lafayette added an insurance run on back-to-back hits two-out hits, its sixth two-out run of the game.
Trailing 8-6 in the bottom of the seventh, Lehigh loaded the bases with nobody out after senior Joe Conaway singled, junior Casey Turner singled and freshman Conor Faust reached on a fielder’s choice while the runner at third was safe on a throwing error by the catcher. Lafayette then brought in its hard-throwing left-hander Sean McGrath to face pinch-hitter Cory Kent, senior Chad Warga and pinch-hitter Alex Jacquez but Lehigh couldn't continue the rally and was unable to complete the comeback.
Freshman Jordan Smith fell to 2-2 on the season, allowing five runs – two earned – on five hits in 2.0 innings. Jeff Snell improved to 1-1 for Lafayette, pitching 2.1 shutout relief innings, striking out three and allowing three hits. Derek Gussaroff started for the Leopards and lasted 3.2 innings, allowing six runs – two earned – on two hits and walked six.
Lehigh had five hits in the game from five different Mountain Hawks while Abeln and Conaway were responsible for the two RBIs for Lehigh. Lafayette had 12 hits in the game including a 4-for-4 game from Thomas Dunleavy.
Lafayette had four errors in the game while its pitchers walked seven batters, but Lehigh was unable to take advantage.
In game two, Lehigh again fell behind early. In the top of the second, Lafayette scored three runs with one out on three hits. The Mountain Hawks got a run back in the bottom of the second on a two-out RBI single by Kent which would turn out to be Lehigh’s lone run of the game as Lehigh’s offense stalled, managing just three hits over the next seven innings.
Both starting pitchers cruised through the middle innings as Cassell pitched a strong 7.0 innings, allowing three runs on six hits while striking out six. In the top of the eighth, Lehigh was hurt again by two-out RBIs as Lafayette scored four runs in the inning, three of which came with two outs. The Leopards tacked on another run in the ninth on a solo home run by Kevin Casey.
Cassell fell to 1-5 on the season while Connor Ortlof improved to 1-0 as he went the distance, allowing one run on five hits while striking out three.
Again Lehigh had five hits in the game, this time coming from three different players. Jacquez and Kent each had two hits while Faust had the other hit.
Lafayette had 11 hits in the game and was led by Andrew Santomauro’s 3-for-5 with 4 RBIs.
Lehigh and Lafayette split the season series for the second year in a row. Sunday’s games were the 344th and 345th meeting between the schools as Lehigh is now 141-203-2 all-time while the Mountain Hawks hold the edge 49-41 since the two have met as Patriot League foes.
Lehigh will look to rebound with a pair of mid-week games as the Mountain Hawks travel to take on Temple Tuesday in the final game of the Liberty Bell Classic with first pitch slated for 3 p.m. while Lehigh will return to Goodman Campus to host Delaware State Wednesday at 3 p.m.