BETHLEHEM, PA. – The Army West Point baseball team is postseason bound thanks to a doubleheader split with Lehigh here Sunday afternoon.
The Black Knights headed into the twin bill needing one win to clinch a spot in the Patriot League tournament for the first time since 2014. And the Cadets did just that. After a lopsided 16-3 loss in the opener, Army rebounded for an 8-5 late-inning, come-from-behind victory to wrap up conference play with a mark of 10-10.
Army finished tied with Bucknell in the league standings but since the Black Knight took the teams’ head-to-head series at 3-1, they secured the third spot, while the Bison dropped into fourth place. The Cadets will travel to second-seeded Holy Cross on May 13-14 in a best-of-three series.
In Sunday’s nightcap, Army trailed three times throughout the contest. The Mountain Hawks jumped in front 1-0 after a leadoff home run. The Black Knights answered in the third though with three huge runs to take over the 3-1 edge.
Trey Martin started that small rally with a leadoff long ball to left field. Then after the inning’s first out, Jacob Hurtubise doubled to right center before Jon Rosoff brought him home with a single to right field. The Mountain Hawks recorded the second out of the inning but Matt Hudgins earned a walk on the ensuing play to place runners on first and second. During the next at bat, Rosoff and Hudgins sparked a double steal before Rosoff touched home on the same play thanks to a throwing error by the catcher.
The home team quickly knotted the score at 3-3 in the bottom half thanks to a two-out, two-run home run to left field. Lehigh then added on with a solo shot to center field from Connor Donovan in the fourth.
But the Cadets wouldn’t go away as John McCarthy’s one-out RBI single in the fourth scored Hurtubise to tie the game at 4-4.
The Mountain Hawks broke that deadlock with a run in the sixth to make it a 5-4 ballgame.
The score remained the same until Hudgins led off with a shot over the right field fence, which brought home the game’s tying run. Alex Dickerson then doubled down the left field line on the ensuing play to place a runner in scoring position. After a pitching chance, Baggio Saldivar converted on a sacrifice bunt to shift Dickerson to third. On the next at bat, David Monge tripled to right field to score Dickerson and hand Army the 6-5 edge. The Black Knights weren’t done yet though as Martin singled on a bunt during the next play to register another run.
Army tacked on one final insurance run in the ninth when Hudgins singled to bring home Hurtubise from second. Sophomore Sam Messina then continued his strong relief outing from the eighth with nearly a clean sheet in the bottom of the ninth, minus a two-out hit-by-pitch, to secure the win.
In the opener, Army jumped in front 2-0 after Hurtubise and Rosoff touched home plate in the top of the first. The Mountain Hawks tied things up in the bottom half in that inning before tacking on seven more runs throughout the next three innings to create a 9-2 gap between the teams. Army tried to rally in the fifth when Hudgins doubled to right center to bring home McCarthy but the deficit ultimately proved to be too much.
Rosoff batted a team-best .714 on the day after finishing 5-for-7 with a double, two RBIs and two runs. Hudgins and McCarthy also chipped in three hits each, while Hudgins reeled in three RBI. Hurtubise accounted for four of Army’s final 11 runs on the day as well.
Cam Opp was credited with the loss in Game 1, after going 1.1 innings allowing four hits, four runs and one walk. Rookie Logan Smith earned the win in the nightcap, giving up just one hit in 1.2 innings of work. Messina notched his second save of the year after closing out the final two innings allowing only two walks.
The Black Knights’ weekend series with Hartford will be divided up with a doubleheader on Saturday at Doubleday Field and a single game at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford, Conn., on Sunday. Games will start at 1 p.m. on both days.