WORCESTER, Mass. – Having already clinched a spot in the Patriot League tournament field for the 2021 season, the Lehigh baseball team traveled to Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field on Saturday afternoon against Holy Cross looking to play for the standings, as the Mountain Hawks (20-15, 16-9 PL) won both ends of the doubleheader against the Crusaders (9-19, 8-14 PL) with just two games left on the schedule.
For the second weekend in a row, it was yet another elite outing from the junior right-hander black mason in Game 1, spinning his second straight complete shutout, going the distance in seven innings while scattering four hits and striking out 10 crosses while walking four. Black was locked in from the start of the contest, at one point striking out eight straight batters.
The win puts him in good stead to exit the regular season with a legit shot at the Patriot League Pitching Triple Crown, after picking up wins with a 7-2 record and 90 strikeouts in 11 starts. His 2.51 ERA also ranks first ahead of his teammate Matt Svansonwhich is due to launch on Sunday.
The outing was Black’s sixth with 10 or more strikeouts and is just four away from tying and five from breaking Lehigh legend Craig Anderson’s 61-year-old single-season program record of 94 set in 1960. .
“We were led by Mason again today which was just another great performance from him,” the head coach said. Sean Leary. “For what it’s worth, he pitched as pitcher of the year all season long. He came out and did what he does best again today.
“We had a few clutch shots from Quinn [McKenna] and Tyler [Young] then a big tidy home run from [Joe] Gorla. There were contributions from top to bottom of the lineup today. Something we’ve been working on and preaching about is that we need to have all third parties of programming click and today we had contributions from literally everyone.”
A pitching duel for the first four innings between Black’s Jack DiLauro and Holy Cross, the Mountain Hawks finally broke through in the fourth inning when Quinn McKenna isolated in left field, scoring Casey Rother to put Lehigh in the lead, 1-0.
In the same round, rookie Tyler Young came in big with a single wide of center field, bringing Andre Nole to score and take a 2-0 lead.
The moment of the game came on a three-point home run from the stick of Joe Gorla in the fifth inning, clearing the left field fence to extend Lehigh’s lead to 5-0. The home run was the first of Gorla’s career as he totaled RBIs Nos. 27, 28, and 29 in one go.
The Crusaders threatened late in the seventh inning, loading the bases with no outs, but Black was steady, striking out two batters in a row by way of the strikeout, forcing the last batter to hit Sweeney at first base unassisted to retire the side for the last time out, as Lehigh held on for the 5-0 shutout victory.
Throwing seemed to be a theme heading into Game 2 of the afternoon for the Mountain Hawks, as a junior southpaw Luke Rettig seemed to settle early, striking out the game’s first seven batters. Rettig knocked out five Crusaders in the first three rounds of the contest.
Lehigh assisted Rettig on the offensive end of the ball, scoring the first in the top of the third inning. A single from Rother in the middle ended up scoring Riley Davisbut a fielding error allowed Rother to take second place and tagged Sweeney to put Lehigh ahead, 2-0.
Holy Cross finally figured out how to get past Rettig late in the third inning, breaking the no-hitter with a one-out single. The Crusaders scored a point on picking a defenseman, cutting Lehigh’s lead in half at 2-1.
Adam Retzbach extended Lehigh’s lead in the fourth inning on his fifth home run of the season, a deep right field blast, making it a 3-1 ball game. In the fifth with two runners, Sweeney laced a ball to right field, as the Mountain Hawks took a 5-1 lead.
The Crusaders fought back in the bottom of the sixth inning, scoring Rettig’s three to go one at 5-4.
Senior Sam Würth came in and pitched brilliantly as he has throughout the season, shoving a stellar 3.1 three-hitter innings without allowing a run and striking out a batter to earn his fourth save of the season in the lead of the Patriot League.
The defense helped Wurth late in the eighth inning as Eric Cichocki made a great dive and first kicked out the runner for the double play to end the inning.
“In Game 2, we seemed to get input from everyone in the lineup,” Leary said. “Sweeney had a huge hit and Retzy responded with a huge homer to tack on a run. By the end of the game, it looked like every guy on our lineup had done something really eye-catching.
“But the two-game play was probably Eric’s ridiculous diving catch in right field. He’s really been probably as good an outfielder as I’ve seen in my years here at Lehigh. To me, he’s the best defenseman in the league this season He made a play three or four times this year to win a game and that play couldn’t have come at a more important time today.
Sweeney and Retzbach each recorded a pair of hits and combined three RBIs to guide the Mountain Hawks’ offense in Game 2 of the afternoon.
In a standoff with Army West Point for the conference’s top spot, Lehigh hopes to control his own destiny before Sunday as he seeks to win his first regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the Patriot League tournament since 2006. The Hawks and Crusaders meet at Fitton Field Sunday at noon for the final two games of the regular season.