Baseball beats rival Lehigh after splitting series with Navy


Junior catcher Zach Savage had three hits in the first win over Navy. (Photo courtesy of Athletic Communications)

By Nicky Nathanson

The Lafayette men’s baseball team had a busy last week, playing five games in five days. The Leopards beat rival Lehigh 3-2 on Wednesday after winning two of four games against Navy on Saturday and Sunday. 

Lafayette entered the week on an eight-game losing streak but were able to right the ship somewhat, going 2-3 over the five games. The Leopards move to 7-11 on the season and 6-9 in the Patriot League with a dozen games left to be played. 

The Leopards went into the recent contests at a disadvantage, with multiple starters and their head coach out due to COVID-19 infections. 

“This weekend we were without our shortstop, number three starting pitcher and head coach due to COVID,” junior utility player Zach Savage said. “We went into the series with a ‘nothing to lose’ type of attitude and I think that helped us play looser and stick to what we do best.” 

In the Wednesday game against Lehigh, the teams played through four scoreless innings before the Mountain Hawks got on the board first in the bottom of the fifth. The Leopards pounced back in the seventh inning with a pair of runs after RBI knocks from freshmen Blaze Fadio and Justin Grech. 

Lafayette added another run in the eighth after sophomore infielder Seif Ingram doubled down the left field line, scoring sophomore outfielder Pete Ciuffreda who singled and stole second. The Mountain Hawks narrowed the deficit with a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth before sophomore pitcher Nolan Morr closed the game out.

Junior infielder Justin Johnson and senior outfielder Colin Hartey had a pair of hits apiece as the Leopards outhit the Mountain Hawks 10-6. Sophomore hurler Jordan Yoder threw a gem, striking out a season-high eight batters and going a season-high seven innings for his third win. It was Lafayette’s first win in four games against Lehigh this spring.

In Saturday’s first game, Navy got off to an early 4-0 lead before Lafayette answered with four runs of their own in the second inning. Fadio brought in a runner after being hit by a pitch, and Grech then hit a sacrifice fly before two consecutive walks brought in two more, tying the game. 

In the fifth inning, the Midshipmen retook the lead on a sacrifice fly. The Leopards countered back as a single from Ingram tied the game before another single from Hartey gave the Leopards a 7-5 lead. This proved to be enough, and Lafayette added a further cushion in the sixth inning on an RBI single by Savage. The Leopards took the first game of the double header 8-6.

In the second matchup on Saturday, Navy got on the board first with a two-run homer. Junior catcher Dylan Minghini knotted the game at two in the bottom half of the first with a two-RBI double. 

 The Midshipmen added two runs in the second and a solo home run in the third to take a commanding 5-2 lead. But before the game could get out of hand, Ciuffreda hit a two-run homer of his own to make it a 5-4 game. 

Navy continued to pile on runs in the fourth inning, extending their lead to 8-4. However, Lafayette countered on a Fadio home run that brought in three runs for the Leopards. Once again in the sixth, Navy and Lafayette scored two runs apiece to keep it a one-run game at 10-9 in favor of the Midshipmen. 

A single in the top of the seventh gave Navy a 12-9 lead, but in the bottom of the eighth the Leopards caught fire: scoring four runs off a single from senior infielder Ethan Stern, an error, and another single by Minghini. 

This proved to be enough as the Leopards won 13-12 in a tightly contested battle. 

After two close wins on Saturday, the Leopards dropped both games to Navy on Sunday. 

In the first game, Navy jumped out to a three-run lead before the Leopards responded with four runs in the third inning. A Stern double drove in two runs followed by two more runs coming in as a result of wild pitches. Through three innings the Leopards were up 4-3. 

However, the Midshipmen retook the lead at 6-4 in the fifth inning and this proved to be too much for the Leopards to overcome as the Midshipmen added two more runs in the sixth inning and cruised to an 8-4 win. 

Once again in the second game, Lafayette found themselves down early. Through two innings Navy held a 2-0 lead. 

In the third inning, the Leopards tied it up as Hartley’s grounder to second brought in one, followed by Stern’s single which brought in another.

In the fourth, Navy once again captured the lead adding two, before the Leopards counteracted in the fifth with a sacrifice fly from Hartey and an RBI single from Ciuffreda to tie the game at four. 

Navy scored four runs in the bottom half of the fifth to open up an 8-4 lead. Not to be outdone, the Leopards scored four of their own in the top half of the sixth, scoring after a Grech single brought in two, a wild pitch brought in one and a Ciuffreda groundout to first base tied it up. 

A Navy triple in the bottom of the seventh proved to be the difference maker as they added two more runs. Strong pitching prevailed in the last two innings from Navy and ultimately Lafayette fell by a score of 10-8.

“As the season goes on, I think we can work on taking advantage of other teams’ mistakes more often,” Savage said. 

The Leopards will be back in action this weekend, heading to Worcester, Mass., to take on Holy Cross in a three-game series. Saturday’s game will start at 3 p.m., with Sunday’s doubleheader slated for 12 and 3 p.m.