Pitching, baserunning and Leary’s 500th win highlight Lehigh’s sweep of Coppin State
at George Washington
03/06/2021 | 11:30 a.m.
COLUMBIA, Md. – A special day was the opening of the 2021 season for the Lehigh baseball team when the Mountain Hawks took two from Coppin State on Saturday afternoon at Blandair Park. Junior Mason Black, sophomore Ryan Deom and senior Yash Rane hurled a combined 21 strikeout one-hitter to give head coach Sean Leary his 500th career win in Game 1, knocking out the Eagles 9-0. And in Game 2, the Mountain Hawks scored four hits in the first inning, and Casey Rother scored twice with five RBIs to lead the team to a 10-1 win and improve to 2-0 for the first time since 2016.
Lehigh scored a total of five runs between the first two innings, and when led by an Adam Retzbach stroll, he put Eric Cichocki 1-0 up. A field mistake that earned Gerard Sweeney and a Joe Gorla victim fly led the Mountain Hawks 3-0 at the end of the first.
With two runners on the base in the second inning, Rother landed on the third base, which brought Cichocki 5-0 up.
In seventh place, the newcomer Riley Davis flew to the right field and achieved a 6-0 lead with Retzbach. With a Rother single he brought Cichocki to eighth place and Lehigh 7-0.
Two Lehigh runs in the ninth inning, including a Sweeney RBI single, reached the 9-0 final.
Black was great on the mound on his 2021 season debut. He went five strong innings without a single hit or run, hitting 11 batters against 16 batters for 73 pitches. The Patriot League preseason pitcher of the year knocked out seven consecutive batters between the third and fifth innings, and his eleven is a career high after registering nine in his last three starts into the 2020 season.
“It was great for our team to set the tone in the first few innings and for Mason to come out with a smile on a cold, rainy day on a mound of grass and so many challenges just because he was out there again,” said Leary. “In all fairness he was dominant, he was in the upper 90s throughout the outing and discovered both his fastball and breaking ball against a pretty good batting team.
“He showed what an ace has to do, which is to go out and play a tone all day.”
Sophomore Ryan Deom came off the bullpen to relieve Black as he entered the sixth inning and was just as solid. He threw three innings of a one-hit shutout ball with no walks and seven strikeouts for 42 pitches. Senior Yash Rane closed the door in the ninth inning by kicking the side out in turn. As employees in Game 1, the Mountain Hawks combined 21 hits, which only allowed a single hit.
“I think the most impressive thing our pitchers did today was that they played at a high level and didn’t run over a man for the whole first game,” said Leary. “They were competing in the zone and I don’t know what our program record is for strikes in a nine-inning game, but I imagine it’s probably up there.
“Every man came out and did what he was supposed to do and we think we have some depth. Today we saw that and it was fun to see these people get out there and compete against each other again.”
Eric Cichocki was fantastic with four hits in his career on a 4v6 afternoon, scored three runs and also stole four bases. Gerard Sweeney went 3-1 on an RBI and three walks, while the Mountain Hawks went to first base seven times throughout the competition.
“Eric was rightly the offensive star of Game 1,” said Leary. “He’s been on the base from the first inning and wreaked havoc and set the tone by just getting on the base, stealing bases and scoring runs and making it a little easier for the middle guys to turn him on. But we talk about getting our leadoff game. ” on the base and he was just great all day. “
The start of Game 2 was every bit as strong as the way Lehigh got out of goal in the first game. The Mountain Hawks covered four runs in the first inning, which were used by Casey Rother’s two-part home run. A brace from Joe Gorla and Cam Hubbard caused a throwing error by the CSU catcher and gave Hubbard a 4-0 lead.
The Mountain Hawks got a pair of RBI singles from Gerard Sweeney and Adam Retzbach in the second inning to extend the lead to 6-0 by two frames.
In the upper part of the fourth field Joe Gorla met the left field and achieved a 7-0 lead with Hubbard. In the fifth round, Rother’s Sweeney and Cichocki gave Lehigh a 9-0 lead with two RBI single games.
Rother ended his monster day with a solo shot on right field in seventh, crowned his performance with five RBI and gave the Mountain Hawks a 10-0 cushion.
“One of the things we talked about during the season was that our guys put a lot of work into the off-season,” said Leary. “They worked every minute to get them into the facilities. Casey stars alongside Sweeney and Retz. These are the people who took the time and it was really cool to see how they were rewarded today.
“He was the offensive star of Game 2 and some really big hits, but I thought our offense just matched their pressure and was a ton on the base today which was great.”
Coppin State had its first run of the series in the eight after a runner advanced in a wild field and scored a man, but Lehigh held for the 10-1 win.
Just like in Game 1, pitching was the story for Lehigh as senior right-hander Matt Svanson had a special outing that allowed only one hit over four innings with two walks and eight spikes. Left junior Luke Rettig came into play with relief in the fifth inning and threw three innings, which allowed only a single hit with six strikeouts.
“Matt and Luke carried the baton of the first three boys and our first 16 innings were as good as we could,” said Leary. “They spotted the ball and threw several fields. Most of all they just competed and threw a lot of punches, attacked the zone and the number of strikes is hard to predict on any given day, but they were just super competitive right from the start. “
Senior Sam Wurth finished the game, throwing the last 1 2/3 innings and knocking out a few batters while allowing only one hit.
Rother went 3v6 with two home runs, two runs scored and five RBIs. Eric Cichocki went 1-3 with two walks, three runs scored and a stolen base. On that day, the senior outfielder finished the 5v8 race with six runs scored, two walks, and five bases stolen. As a team, the Mountain Hawks stole seven bags in Game 2, led by Cam Hubbard (3) and Riley Davis (2), while both Cichocki and Gorla recorded one each.
Lehigh went eight times in the second game, a total of 15 times between the two, as one of the main themes of the day for the program was getting men on the grassroots.
What better way to hit a milestone than on opening day, when head coach Sean Leary posted his 500th career win after the Mountain Hawks 9-0 win over Coppin State? Leary, the most successful head coach in program history, has reached the plateau at the top in his 26th season.
“I think the special thing about reaching that number is the number of text messages I’m just sending back,” Leary said. “You can tell that there were a lot of special players involved and probably 100 of them made contact in the first hour after the game.
“That’s what makes this job so special: You have lifelong relationships with a lot of young men who are growing up. That made me smile for the last 45 minutes. The number is a number, but it’s more about the memories you have Someone who was part of my first win text me a lot. Getting 500 wins just makes me grateful for the opportunity to be with so many special kids. “
The Mountain Hawks will be back in action for a double-header with George Washington in DC next Saturday, March 6th, before returning to J. David Walker Field for two with the Colonials on March 7th.
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