Posted: 04/11/2012 | Last updated: April 11, 2012 at 07:18 PM
PRINCESS ANNE, Md. – The Lehigh baseball team (13-23-1) swept a doubleheader against the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (8-25) Wednesday as the Mountain Hawks won a pair of tight games, 7-6 and 5-3. Senior Joe Conaway delivered the game-winning RBI in game one to break a 6-6 tie in the eighth while Lehigh came back from a 3-0 deficit late in game two, scoring four runs in the sixth and adding an insurance run in the seventh.
“We played a couple of very hard-fought games and we got some clutch hitting late in the games,” said head coach Sean Leary. “Cory Kent and Brandon Sady did a great job closing each game and were terrific in pressure situations. We got production up and down the lineup. Guys were getting their number called and stepped up; it was a great team effort.”
Sophomore Joe Abeln was 5-for-9 on the day with four runs scored and two RBIs to improve his team-leading batting average to .364. Freshman John Elson also had a stellar day, going 3-for-6 with two RBIs and a run scored while Conaway, junior Brandan Sady, senior Ryan Gajdos and senior Brendan McGaheran each had two hits and at least one RBI.
In game one, Lehigh led 6-2 before UMES was able to tie it up at 6-6 in the bottom of the sixth. Then with two outs in the top of the eighth, Abeln singled and Conaway drove him in with a RBI double to right centerfield.
Junior Thomas O’Malley earned the win (1-0), pitching 2.1 shutout relief innings, allowing just two hits and striking out two. Senior Cory Kent worked in and out of trouble in the ninth to pick up his fourth save of the season and 22nd career save, which ranks #3 all-time in the Patriot League.
In game two, Lehigh trailed the entire way until the Mountain Hawks broke out with four runs in the top of the sixth. Again Lehigh came through with two outs as McGaheran came up with the clutch two-out, game-tying RBI single and Gajdos then drove him in with the game-winning RBI single.
Sophomore Joey McNamara picked up the win (2-0), throwing 1.0 inning of relief, allowing two hits and no runs. Sady pitched the final two innings and allowed just one hit to pick up his first save of the season.
In game one, Lehigh loaded the bases in the top of the first after McGaheran walked, Abeln singled and Conaway walked. Junior Casey Turner then earned a RBI bases-loaded walk while Elson drove in a run with a RBI SAC fly. Sady then came up with the two-out RBI single to put Lehigh on top 3-0.
UMES responded in the bottom of the first with a run after a triple and SAC fly.
The Mountain Hawks extended its lead with two runs in the top of the second. Gajdos reached on a fielding error as Abeln followed with a RBI triple and Conaway lined a RBI double.
In the bottom of the fourth, UMES cut Lehigh’s lead 5-2 after a single, hit by pitch and RBI single.
After four innings without scoring, Lehigh got back on the scoreboard in the top of the sixth. Freshman Tim McKay and McGaheran hit consecutive singles. Gajdos then reached on a fielder’s choice as McKay was thrown out at third on the SAC bunt. Gajdos and McGaheran then pulled off a double steal to put runners on second and third and Abeln drove in McGaheran with a groundout to shortstop.
In the bottom of the sixth, UMES put up a four spot with two outs to tie the game 6-6. With two outs and the bases loaded, the Hawks came up with a two-run single and a RBI single. Then with runners on first and third, UMES tied the game on a failed pickoff attempt and error by the pitcher.
In the top of the eighth, Lehigh regained the lead. With two outs, Abeln singled and Conaway then crushed a RBI double to right centerfield which would go on to be the difference in the game.
In the bottom of the ninth, UMES loaded the bases with nobody out after consecutive singles and a hit-by-pitch against Kent. Lehigh’s closer then got a strikeout for the first out of the inning. UMES then grounded a ball back to Kent who forced out the tying run at the plate. And then Kent got a pop out to third base to end the game.
Lehigh had 11 hits in the game as Abeln finished 3-for-5 with three runs scored and two RBIs while Conaway added a 2-for-4 game with two RBIs and a run scored. Sady also had two hits.
Sophomore Colin Gotzon started for Lehigh and pitched well, throwing 5.0 innings and allowing two runs on five hits while striking out three.
Michael Epps took the loss (0-2), throwing 3.1 IP and allowing one run on four hits. Alex Welch started for UMES, pitching 5.0 innings and allowing six runs – five earned – on seven hits while walking five. UMES had 12 hits in the game, as Stephen Bull and Byron Campbell each had three this at the top of the lineup.
In game two, UMES scored three runs in the bottom of the first, all with two outs. After a walk, the Hawks connected on three consecutive RBI hits.
In the top of the third, Lehigh threatened with runners on the corners two outs but were unable to take advantage.
The Mountain Hawks again put together a rally in the following inning as Lehigh loaded the bases with two outs. Conaway walked and after a flyout, Elson singled. Kent then reached on a fielder’s choice as Elson was thrown out at second. Kent advanced to second on a wild pitch and Wilt walked, but McKay was robbed of a hit as the right fielder made a diving catch to end the inning.
With only six outs left to make a comeback, Lehigh finally was able to break through after the Mountain Hawks got their first two runners on in the sixth as Turner and Elson earned consecutive walks. Kent lined a RBI double to right field and advanced to third on an error by the right fielder which also allowed Elson to score as Lehigh cut the deficit to 3-2. With the tying run 90 feet away, Lehigh made two outs before McGaheran came up clutch with the game-tying RBI single to centerfield.
McGaheran then stole second and Gajdos drove him in with a RBI single and advanced to second on the throw home as Lehigh took its first lead of the game, 4-3.
The Mountain Hawks added on the always important insurance run in the seventh as Abeln reached on a fielding error and Conaway moved him over to second with a SAC bunt. After Turner grounded out, it was another two-out RBI hit for Lehigh, this one coming from Elson who doubled.
UMES put a pair of runners on base in the bottom of the seventh, but Sady got a fly out and strikeout to preserve the victory.
Lehigh had nine hits in the game as Elson (3-for-3), Abeln (2-for-4) and Gajdos (2-for-4) combined for seven of those hits.
Rene Tato started for Lehigh and allowed three runs in one inning of work but freshman Jordan Smith, McNamara and Sady pitched the final six innings and allowed just five hits without a run.
Karim Gonzalez took the loss (1-3), allowing two runs – one earned- on three hits in 1.1 IP. UMES had eight hits as James Newsome, Tre-von Johnson and Jeffrey Fleetwood each had two.
Lehigh has now won three in a row and five straight midweek games.
The Mountain Hawks will look to ride the momentum from their winning streak as Lehigh continues Patriot League play this weekend at Bucknell with doubleheaders set for Saturday and Sunday. First pitches both days are slated to start at noon.
It will be a big series for Lehigh (2-6 PL) which currently sits tied for fifth while Bucknell (3-5 PL) sits a game ahead in fourth place. The Mountain Hawks dropped three of four to the Bison on Goodman Campus last season.
“It gives us some real confidence, especially in close ballgames which every Patriot League game is,” Leary said. “Especially offensively, we are starting to find out swing and it’s definitely something to build on as we get ready for four league games.”