BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Defensive errors in Game 1 cost the Lehigh baseball team a victory in Saturday afternoon’s series opener against Holy Cross at J. David Walker Field, but the Mountain Hawks ( 22-20, 9-11 PL) pulled away from the Crusaders (14-33, 8-12 PL) with three runs in the sixth inning of Game 2 to claim a late-night 6-2 win on Senior Day.
Lehigh rode junior’s bats Adam Retzbach and senior Casey Rother between games with Retzbach batting .857 (6 for 7) with two doubles, a home run and two RBIs on Saturday. Rother hit .500 (4 for 8) with two homers, a double and three RBIs. First year Jake Whitlinger also finished with four base hits on the day.
On the mound, the two starters (Luke Rettig and Matt Stamford) did not accept any decisions while a senior right-hander Nick Pavé was charged with the loss in Game 1 and Rother pitched 3.1 shutout innings for his third win of the season in Game 2.
“I’m really happy with our seniors today,” said the head coach Sean Leary. “I think Luke, Nick, Matt and Casey all threw the ball exceptionally well today. We only allowed a few earned runs in 19 innings today. They gave us every chance to win those games. Every once in a while there’s a part of your game that’s not where it needs to be. Today was our defense. We were a pretty strong defensive team, but we gave them all the points in the first game.
“It happens from time to time. It’s frustrating and it’s a game that we think we could and should have won. Our pitchers kept us going in that game and in Game 2 I thought our pitchers had paved the way coupled with big hits from the middle of the roster.”
Retzbach gave Lehigh the lead in the bottom of the first inning of Game 1, an RBI single to left center field that scored Whitlinger as Lehigh took a 1-0 lead.
Against Rettig, Holy Cross scored twice – once in the second and once in the fourth – to take a 2-1 lead.
Rother came in big in the bottom of the sixth inning with a solo homer to left center, tying the game at 2-2. The Mountain Hawks managed to load the bases in this inning, but Retzbach was caught stealing home to end the inning.
A pitching duel sent the game into extra innings with both teams battling for the next four frames. The turning point of the fight came in the bottom of the eighth when the Mountain Hawks charged the bases with no outs. Riley Davis struck out while swinging, Young reached a defenseman’s pick for the second out and Sam Holtz was also retired on a defender’s choice to end the inning.
The Crusaders scored three in the 10th to take a 5-2 lead with all three scored on errors by Lehigh.
Lehigh veered on a run late in the 10th on by Gerard Sweeney sacrifice-fly, but Davis pitching a strikeout looking for Young resulted in a 5-3 victory for Holy Cross.
Retzbach went 4-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI in the loss, while Rother and Whitlinger both recorded two hits. Rettig did not consider the call, although he allowed just two runs (one earned) on five hits in seven innings of work, striking out four on three walks. Pave (1-2) struggled with the loss, pitching the last three innings without giving up an earned run.
In Game 2, much of the game was a pitching duel over the first six innings, despite Rother’s two-run homer down the right field line down the first to take a 2-0 lead.
Holy Cross tied the match in the sixth on a triple RBI and an RBI single, tying it at 2-2.
The Mountain Hawks scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take a 5-2 lead, started by Young’s RBI single in the middle and two bat singles from Davis and Chase Carlson.
Insurance runs were added in the seventh inning thanks to Retzbach’s solo homer to left field as the Mountain Hawks held on for the final 6-2.
Whitlinger, Rother, Retzbach and Carlson each had a pair of hits, while Davis recorded three hits.
On the mound, senior southpaw Matt Stamford was solid regardless of the decision, going 5.2 solid innings, allowing two runs on 10 hits with four strikeouts and no walks. Rother pushed the final 3.1 frames without giving up a run, giving up a hit with two strikeouts. He is now 3-0 with a best 0.75 ERA this year.
The program paid tribute to their eight eldest – Chase Carlson, Gerard Sweeney, Austin Dambach, Joe Gorla, Luke Rettig, Nick Pavé, Casey Rother and Matt Stamford – as well as longtime assistant coach John Bisco with a special pre-game ceremony.
Lehigh will go for the weekend series win on Sunday, taking on the Crusaders at noon in the final game of the regular season at J. David Walker Field.