Lafayette Baseball: 2007 Patriot League C-H-A-M-P-I-O-N-S
May 13, 2007
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EASTON, Pa. - The Lafayette baseball program claimed its first-ever Patriot League championship with a 7-3 triumph over Army on Sunday afternoon at the Class of 1978 Stadium. The Leopards, who won the opening game of the best-of-three Patriot League Championship Series on Saturday, received an eight-inning effort from starter Kevin Reese and a 4-for-5 day at the plate by Tom Hayes to close out the series on Sunday.
The victory propels Lafayette (32-17) into the NCAA Regionals for the first time since 1990. The conference title is the program's first since the inception of the Patriot League in 1991.
Lafayette will have to wait until Monday, May 28, to find out where the Leopards will be traveling for the NCAA Regionals. They will find out who, where and what time they will play during an NCAA selection show televised by ESPN at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Lafayette played as the visiting team on the scoreboard on Sunday due to the tournament rules, but the outcome was the same. The host Leopards manufactured two runs in the first inning. James Conrad led off by ripping a single back up the middle. Conrad then stole second and third. Mike Raible came to the plate and singled home Conrad for the early lead. With two outs in the inning, Dave Drechsel (3-for-5) contributed a run-scoring single to plate Raible, as Lafayette led 2-0.
Conrad's two stolen bases gave him 81 for his career and awarded him sole possession of the career stolen base record at Lafayette, an honor previously held by Bert Solivan '90 who had 79. In two games in the PLCS, Lafayette stole nine bases on 10 attempts, giving the Leopards 130 for the season.
Army (25-23-1) erased the Leopard lead in the bottom of the second inning. J.P. Polchinski and Bo Cipra each singled in runs to knot the game 2-2. In the fifth inning, the Leopards took a 3-2 lead. Singles by Chris Luick and Hayes and a throwing error by Army allowed Lafayette to score one of five unearned runs on the afternoon.
The errors really hurt Army in the sixth inning, as Lafayette pushed across four runs while aided by three Black Knight miscues. The first two Leopard batters of the inning reached on errors. With the runners moving, Daniel Bierce hit behind the play and lofted a ball the other way to shallow right to score Drechsel. Luick and Hayes each singled home a run and another scored on a failed pick off attempt, as Lafayette maintained its momentum and pushed out to a 7-2 lead.
On the mound, Reese got stronger as the game wore on and his breaking ball sharpened. The junior, whose longest previous outing this season was seven innings, pitched into the ninth inning before being lifted for Brad Woodfield. Army managed to score one run on Andy Ernesto's RBI-double off Reese to put the final at 7-3.
Reese struck out five and allowed three runs on nine hits in 8.1 innings. He walked just one of the 35 batters he faced. Army starter Drew Clothier took the loss, allowing seven runs (two earned) with eight strikeouts in six innings of work. Ben Mayhew threw the final three innings and scattered three hits.
Raible was named the Patriot League Tournament MVP, joining Conrad, Hayes, Drechsel and Matt Kamine on the All-Tournament Team. Raible blasted his first home run of the season on Saturday in game one of the PLCS and added a triple later in the game. He finished the series with a .429 average and five RBI.
Kamine was the winning pitcher on Saturday while Drechsel did his most important work behind the plate, throwing out three would-be base stealers and picking off another in two games. Army's Nick Hill, Chris Simmons and Andy Ernesto earned spots on the All-Tournament Team while Navy's honorees were Mitch Harris and Thomas Hamilton.