Season Preview: Well-balanced Lehigh have sights set on Patriot League title in 2021
The way things ended in 2020 left a sour taste in Lehigh Baseball’s mouth after playing just 15 games outside of the league before the season closed due to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year’s five seniors saw their careers out of control and the rest of the team missed the overall goal of qualifying for the Patriot League tournament and competing for the program’s third Patriot League title and the first since 2015 .
While the way things are done now is very different from usual, the time for baseball season has come again as the Mountain Hawks hope to fit into an entire season and be back at the tournament for the first time in five years to be able to participate.
The program consists of 33 players spread over six seniors, nine juniors, eight sophomores and 10 freshmen, offering a fairly balanced mix of newbies and veterans.
In the Patriot League preseason poll, the program was selected in first place with two votes out of six teams in third place. The Patriot League Preseason Pitcher of the Year is junior right-handed Mason Black, who enters his third season with the Browns and Whites as the Third Team Preseason All-American of Baseball America and a member of the Golden Spikes Award Preseason Watch List, college baseball equals the Heisman Trophy.
36 games separate Lehigh from a seat in the tournament, and the Mountain Hawks have six non-league games to open the season before diving headlong into the 30-game league.
“I think our boys have certainly kept a pretty good attitude through the fall and early winter,” said head coach Sean Leary, who is entering his 26th season. “But now it’s exciting, especially when you can count down the days a bit. You have made sacrifices and worked so hard to get back here that the excitement has increased over the past three or four days, you can see the light. At the end of the tunnel there is a chance to leave the diamond again.
“We’ve honestly tried to keep everything as segments so we don’t look too far ahead, but we’ve been splitting it up for weeks. So now we’re the week we can start talking about a Now that we’ve been out for a week our guys are really starting to look forward to it, but they are still focused on their repetitions because they have not prepared themselves optimally. We weren’t outside and we didn’t have the opportunity to play. However, I think they don’t care, I think that will only get them excited about playing. “
The infield will look a bit different in 2021, especially with the completion of long-time shortstop Matt Hand and utility man and two-time All-Patriot League picker Tony Gallo. The key parts of the infield remain the same, with Junior Gerard Sweeney manning the hot corner at third base and Junior Casey Rother doing the majority of the reps again at first base.
“Gerard and Casey will be our midfield again, it’s a nice combination of talent,” said Leary. “These are veterans that we will depend on. They are both guys who took this step forward to make our offensive what it can be. They definitely have that ability.”
In the middle of the infield, Junior Joe Gorla will move to the second base this season and work with his junior colleague Chase Carlson in this position. At Shortstop, two freshmen, Riley Davis and Tyler Young, take an early look at the position group that both want to make an impression.
“There’s really not a lot of DI-level gaming experience from this whole group, if any, from these guys,” Leary said. “So we can see one of these guys win our spot as designated hitter. This is a group that our team leaders are working really hard with to get the confidence to get through the season. that a shortstop or a second “baseman who has no gaming experience will have no learning curve.
“They work really hard and we are very excited to have this special group of children.”
Two other names to watch out for in Lehigh’s corners are junior Charlie Von Werne and newcomer Patrick Coyne.
Senior Quinn McKenna will take left field for the Mountain Hawks. He is joined by Cam Hubbard in his sophomore year in midfield and transitioning from the infield is Senior Eric Cichocki who plays the right field.
“Eric, who plays the right field for us, is another great example of what Tony (Gallo) did for us last year,” said Leary. “He’s a great second baseman, but our team is actually stronger when he plays the outfield. We’re very excited about this group. Drew Morse will be an option out there too.”
“But we believe that our center infielders will also be a really good option to be in the fight for one of the corner positions in the outfield.”
At the Catcher, Adam Retzbach is back in the second year after a very solid rookie campaign in which he hit 0.296 with two home runs and a .481 slugging percentage. Behind him are senior Joe Yupp and newcomer Andrew Nole.
“Retzy is poised to have a big stake with Sweeney and Rother in solidifying the middle of our lineup,” said Leary. “Andrew has a nice plus racket. He’s someone who will fight very early and will eventually be a midfielder for us. He’s an exciting option as a lefty racket for a DH.
“But it was also great to have a veteran there. Joe was great in many ways. He just took this group under his wing as a senior. He had an incredible attitude towards mentoring and preparing for the game at the same time. He knows that Adam has that “won the job, but he also knows he has to be ready. He does what we ask of him by preparing for the game, but also preparing the others and getting the others to play at the elite level. I feel really, really good about doing this group now. “
With a talented trapping group arrives in 2021, a pretty special group of starting mugs for the Mountain Hawks, arguably some of the best collective talent Lehigh has seen in years.
Junior three-headed monster Mason Black and Luke Rettig with senior Matt Svanson is exciting in that all three can and will play major roles in the Mountain Hawks returning to the Patriot League tournament, and all three are capable of Major league organizations to be recruited in July. The talented trio of Black, Rettig and Svanson paired with up-and-coming talent like freshman Lucas Rich and second Carlos Torres are just some of the many reasons Lehigh’s pitching staff will be having so much fun this season.
“We have a very special group of kids who all work, but Mason’s a slightly different influence,” Leary said. “He goes into a room and people want to follow him. And he has the ability to do so without being the focus. He works really hard at what he does and he got his teammates to follow the same mindset.
“It was really good for our group to see that mindset, but Matt and Luke also believe they can throw Game 1.
According to Leary, the Big Three are almost like the Big Six in terms of returnees. Seniors Yash Rane and Sam Wurth, as well as second grader Ryan Deom will also be added to the mix for guys who have the opportunity to apply for the job.
“There will also be new guys fighting for positions but these three guys played a lot last year,” said Leary. “With this group we know what they have to offer. Now we have come to a point where we are trying to find out where Lucas and Carlos, who are absolute pioneers in their careers, play what roles? even best suited for her. Even Matt Stamford is in the mix, he’s looked really good this off-season.
“There are a number of other guys like Ben Christian who is healthy and newcomer Teddy Tolliver who is 89 to 91 years old. We have a lot of bike on our team right now and there are only a few guys ready to go deep is like that big that at the beginning of the season it will be great figuring out how to put the pieces of the puzzle together to be the most effective team. “
There are lots of moving parts, but a strong offensive line-up mixed with stellar rotation types and bullpen pieces make the Mountain Hawks a tough challenger this season and a real contender for a Patriot League title shot and a spot in an NCAA Regional .
“This team just has to focus and work, but sometimes it takes a lot of things to run right,” said Leary. “This team has the ability, we have the rotation and we are confident that our pitchers have the chance to compete head-to-head with every starter in the Patriot League. I think our bullpen will have a lot of depth. Way.
“In my opinion, it is only important for us to be a bit more offensive defensively at a higher level. If we are solid defensively and a little more constant offensively, this team will be much better than it is today.” . There is no goal other than the championship this year. That must be the goal. I always say that it’s the one who plays better this weekend to get there and win, but I don’t think there’s a team in the league that wants to face this rotation in May. That is exciting.”
The Mountain Hawks will start the 2021 season against Coppin State on Saturday in Baltimore, with the first pitch of Opening Day scheduled for noon.
Lehigh Athletics is proud to announce that our baseball program is back in competition this semester! It won’t be the same without the cheers from our loyal Lehigh fans from the stands. As we prepare for seasons unlike any other, Mountain Hawk fans still have the chance to make their mark on J. David Walker Field in Legacy Park. Support the Lehigh Athletics program by purchasing a fan cutout today!
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