Mountain Hawks visit offensive-minded VMI for three games starting Friday
BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Starting the spring break slate with a tough opponent, the Lehigh baseball team hits the road this weekend at VMI, taking on the Keydets for three games Friday (3 p.m.), Saturday (2 p.m. ) and Sunday (1 p.m.) at Gray-Minor Stadium in Lexington, Va. All three games will be broadcast live on ESPN+ (subscription required) for the first time this season.
The Mountain Hawks (5-5) hit a snag in a surprise matchup against Delaware State on the road last weekend, falling in two of three games at Dover. Lehigh won Sunday’s final game, 7-3 after a five-run first inning and two runs in the second, while solid pitching limited the Hornets to just three runs for the rest of the game in the win. In Saturday’s game, the Mountain Hawks led 4-0 through the first seven innings before a four-run seventh-and-eighth carried DSU to an 8-5 victory. On Friday, the Hornets one-shot Lehigh, securing the final 1-0.
Sophomore second baseman Riley Davis had a strong weekend at Delaware State, hitting .400 (4 for 10) with two RBIs and a walk, while also scoring 1,000 with eight outs and six assists. Three Mountain Hawks homered in Game 2 Saturday in the early years Justin Butler and Jake Whitlinger as well as senior Casey Rother. Lehigh’s defense made just one error out of 106 chances over the three-game weekend, which has been a catalyst for success so far this season, ranking first in the Patriot League in percentage roster (.983) and ranked 29th in the nation in that category. .
On the mound, it was senior southpaw Matt Stamford who had overall success Saturday in his start against the Hornets, going 5.2 shutout innings and scattering four hits with four walks and four strikeouts. He ignored the decision. Second-year right-hander Tyler Thompson made an immediate impact coming out of the bullpen this season for the Mountain Hawks and did it again Friday in relief from Luke Rettig. Thompson pitched three shutout innings with three hits allowed and two strikeouts. He has a 0.00 ERA in seven innings of work across three appearances so far in 2022, striking out eight with a total of just two free passes (one walk, one strike per pitch).
Senior left-handed Luke Rettig was charged with his first loss of the season Friday at DSU, also giving up his first earned run of the season after going five innings with five hits, one run, three walks and seven strikeouts.
So far through 10 games as a team, Lehigh leads the Patriot League in batting average (.268), ERA (4.63), fielding percentage (.983), hits allowed per nine (8.04), home runs per game (0.70), runs per game (5.7), strikeout to goal ratio (1.78) and K/9 (9.6).
VMI has been excellent to start the 2022 campaign, going 7-5 in its first 12 games and 6-1 at home after beating Penn State at Gray-Minor on Tuesday 11-4. The Keydets have scored 10 or more points in six of their 12 games and are 6-0 in those games. VMI took a game from Duke to open the regular season and followed it up with a three-game sweep of Lafayette, two wins over Binghamton and the win over PSU. He will welcome his second opponent of the season in the Patriot League on Wednesday afternoon against Holy Cross before welcoming the Mountain Hawks.
Seven batters on the VMI roster are batting above .300 to start the season, led by Justin Starke (.489) with 1.643 OPS and seven homers in the first 12 games for the team of the year. Starke is closely followed by Zac Morris (.408) and Will Knight (.372) as well as Brett Cook (.343). Both Starke and Morris have at least 20 hits so far and Starke has six doubles and 10 walks with just five strikeouts in 47 at-bats, reaching base at a .579 clip. The 2021 SoCon freshman of the year, he is currently in the middle of a 10-game hitting streak since Feb. 19 at Duke.
On the mound, right-handed starter Tyler Bradt is 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA in all three starts, batting out 19 bases with 10 walks in 18 innings pitched. Caden Plummer made one start and two more relief appearances, going 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA over 6.2 innings with five strikeouts and two walks. Pitcher VMI has a 6.06 team ERA this year with 97 strikeouts, 67 walks and 130 hits allowed.
Lehigh is 4-1 against VMI in a streak dating back to 1898. After meeting in 1984, the Mountain Hawks won two of the Keydets’ three road games in March 2019. Both wins went to innings further with a 1-0 victory in 11 sets in the first game and a 15-13 final in 10 sets the following day.
The three-game series at Lexington precedes a six-game home game at J. David Walker Field that kicks off next Tuesday at 3 p.m. against Fairleigh Dickinson.
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