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BETHLEHEM, PA. – The Army West Point baseball team split a pair of hard-fought games at Lehigh on Saturday afternoon, securing a 3-1 win before dropping the second matchup at Legacy Park, 3-2.
The doubleheader, which is a rematch of last year’s Patriot League Championship that saw the Black Knights (13-16, 7-3 PL) claim their third-straight title, was close in every way. Through two games, the Cadets earned a narrow margin over the Mountain Hawks (16-15, 4-6 PL) in total hits (12-10) and overall runs scored (5-4).
Army 3, Lehigh 1
Despite the Mountain Hawks being first to get on the board in the series-opener, Army’s three unanswered runs helped the team extend its winning streak to eight-straight games.
Starting arm Connelly Early was nearly perfect for the Cadets, pitching 6.0 innings of three-hit ball. He gave up just one run, which was scored on a sac fly in the bottom of the second, and struck out a season-high seven batters while issuing three walks.
Though the team put at least one runner on in two of the first three frames, it took Army’s offense a little longer to get going. After trailing 1-0 heading into the fourth, the Black Knights scored their first run when Braden Golinski roped a double that plated Ross Friedrick. When a Lehigh error loaded up the bases in the following at-bat, Carter Macias took advantage by stepping up and drawing a bases-loaded walk that handed the visitors the lead at 2-1.
Both starters settled in over the next few frames, as each side went down in order in the fifth and Early went on to extend his streak to six-straight outs with his pitching in the sixth. Following two scoreless innings, Army added an insurance run in the top of the seventh thanks to Sam Ruta’s RBI single, which drove in Macias to boost the team to its three-run total.
Lehigh got the tying run to the plate in the final frame, after leading off with a walk. With nobody out, Early handed the ball over to Tanner Gresham who cruised through the remainder of the frame with ease. With the result, Early (3-3) was credited with the win, while Gresham picked up his team-best third save of the year.
Lehigh 3, Army 2
An RBI double in the bottom of the seventh was the difference in the second game, as the Mountain Hawks’ 3-2 triumph snapped the Cadets’ winning streak.
Army made things interesting in the final frame of the day, which Friedrick led off with an infield single, but unfortunately the tying run never made it past first base.
The Black Knights’ offense began the game by picking up where it left off and scored in the top of the first when Nick Manesis’ single sent Macias home. However, Army was unable to maintain its 1-0 edge for long, as the Mountain Hawks struck in the bottom of the second and used an RBI single and a sac fly to take a 2-1 lead.
Starting arm Brian Dawson held Lehigh scoreless in the third before putting the game in the hands of Robbie Buecker at the start of the fourth. Dawson finished his day with one strikeout while scattering five hits and was tagged with both runs.
With Buecker keeping the home team in check, the Black Knights plated a run in the top of the sixth to tie things up. Following a leadoff single from Ruta, Golinski’s second RBI knock of the day allowed Manesis to score, knotting up the teams at two runs apiece.
After having five-straight batters retired by Buecker, the Mountain Hawks used a walk and a sac bunt to get into scoring position in the top of the seventh. With two outs on the board, Lehigh’s Rother delivered the double that lifted the team to its win, forcing the rubber match. Though Buecker (0-2) was solid in relief, allowing just two hits through 5.0 innings on the mound, he was tagged with the loss.