Lehigh Completes Weekend Sweep of Lafayette
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Lafayette’s Patriot League playoff aspirations were dealt a setback on Sunday afternoon, as host Lehigh won both games of a doubleheader to complete a weekend sweep of the Leopards. Scores were 5-2 and 6-3 in favor of the home side.
With the victories, the Mountain Hawks (18-26, 7-9 PL) move into a tie with Bucknell for third place in the conference standings. Lafayette (13-26, 6-10 PL) drops into fifth, one game behind that duo and one game ahead of Army West Point.
All three conference series this weekend were sweeps, as league-leading Navy (33-11-1, 12-4 PL) took all four contests with rival Army while Holy Cross (22-22, 11-5 PL) solidified second place in the conference with a four-game sweep of Bucknell.
The Leopards will be back in action on Wednesday, traveling to Rider for a 3:30 p.m. tilt before heading to Holy Cross next weekend for their final conference series of the regular season.
Lafayette starter John Cain went the distance in the opener, allowing only one earned run over six innings of work. He allowed six hits and one walk while striking out four to lower his season ERA to 4.40.
All four unearned runs came in what turned out to be the decisive bottom of the third inning. The Leopards entered the frame holding a 2-1 advantage on a two-run shot by Alex Nickles in the second. After a leadoff single, Jacen Nalesnick reached on a fielding error while attempting a sacrifice bunt. Cain retired the next two batters on fielder’s choices, with the second of those tying the score, and Lehigh grabbed the lead on a two-run double from David Young and an RBI single by Connor Donovan.
Lafayette had runners on in each of the final four innings, including bringing the tying run to the plate in the fifth and the seventh, but could not push across another run against either starter Sam Ashley or reliever Kevin Boswick. Ashley allowed one earned run over five for his fourth victory of the spring, while Boswick registered his second save of the season.
Nickles’ long ball was his third of 2016, all of which have come in the month of April. That was one of five hits in the contest for the Leopards. With a 2-for-3 performance from the No. 2 spot, Dan Leckie was the lone Lafayette player to pick up multiple hits.
Lafayette was stymied through the first six innings of the second game by Lehigh starter Mark Washington. The sophomore right-hander fanned six and gave up only three hits before exiting with one out in the top of the seventh.
The Mountain Hawks led 4-0 entering the eighth inning, plating a pair of runs in the third to go along with solo tallies in the fifth and sixth. All four runs were charged to Trevor Houck, who gave up nine hits and struck out a pair over 5 2/3 innings.
The Leopards mounted a furious rally in the eighth, scoring three runs before making an out to reduce the deficit to one. The inning began with an infield hit from Michael Coniglio and walks to John Selsor and Alex Woinski. That brought up Nickles with the bases loaded, and Lafayette plated two runs after his groundball to third was thrown into the outfield with Lehigh trying to force the runner at second.
Steven Cohen followed with a double down the left field line to make it 4-3, but the next three Leopards were retired in order to help the home side maintain its lead.
The Mountain Hawks increased the margin back up to three with two runs of their own in the bottom of the eighth, and the Leopards were set down in the ninth by reliever Brandon Kulp.