Baseball earns third seed in Patriot League playoffs; Leopards will face second-seeded Army in a series this weekend

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Senior infielder Ethan Stern had four hits in the weekend series. (Photo courtesy of Athletic Communications)

Drew Steiner

The baseball team concluded their regular season this past weekend with a three-game series against Bucknell, winning two of three games in Lewisburg, Pa. With the victories, the Leopards clinched the three seed and will head into the Patriot League tournament this weekend with some momentum.

Lafayette went 13-15 in a pandemic-shortened spring season, including a 12-13 mark in the conference—the exact same record they earned in 2019. The Leopards won 4-3 and 10-4 before losing 13-8 during Sunday’s Senior Day game.

Lafayette took the first game by a score of 4-3, as senior outfielder Colin Hartey went three for four, plating one run and collecting two RBIs. 

“For me, it’s about being relaxed at the plate and working counts to get my pitches,” Hartey said. “Being aggressive in the zone in order to barrel the ball is also key. I saw it well on Saturday and it was a great day for our team.”

Junior starting pitcher Kyle Subers threw his second complete game of the season and struck out seven for his third win of the year. Sophomore infielder Seif Ingram went 2-4 and scored twice, while freshman outfielder Justin Grech collected an RBI in the sixth that tied the game at 3-3.

Bucknell scored the first three runs and led until the sixth inning before the Leopards made their comeback. Hartey and Grech each hit RBI singles in the sixth, and a fielding error brought in an additional run. Hartey added another RBI single in the seventh to pull Lafayette ahead 4-3, and Subers came back to the mound and retired the side in order to clinch the win.

Game two saw the Leopards in full control as they completed the Saturday sweep with a resounding 10-4 victory, scoring the first nine runs in the game and never looking back.

Junior infielder Justin Johnson went 3-4 with two doubles, a triple and three RBIs, while sophomore starting pitcher Nolan Morr went five innings and earned the win. Freshman hurler Adam Bogosian came in for four innings of relief and picked up his first career collegiate save, allowing three earned runs and striking out five.

The Leopards closed out their regular season campaign with a 13-8 loss to the Bison on Sunday, leaving them two games shy of .500 on the season. Sophomore outfielder Pete Ciuffreda went 3-4 with a double and two RBIs, and freshman infielder Blaze Fadio added his fourth home run of the season with a two-run shot in the second inning.

Sunday’s game was a high-scoring affair, with 12 combined runs in the first two innings. Lafayette led 8-4 after the second inning but surrendered nine unanswered runs over the rest of the game.

Three Leopards received postseason honors on Wednesday, with Johnson named to the All-Patriot League First Team and Grech and Ciuffreda named to the second team.

With the sweep of the Bison in Saturday’s matchups, the Leopards earned a spot in the Patriot League tournament; the team will face Army in a best of three series in the first round this weekend.

“I think in order to have a successful playoff run we need to dominate all sides of the game,” Ciuffreda said. “Pitchers throwing strikes and keeping guys off balance and hitters having an approach at the plate and executing the situation…is important. As a defense we need to have constant communication and not make any mental errors.”

The team has battled through an unorthodox season due to the pandemic, with only a handful of non-conference games packed into a schedule that saw the Leopards play around half as many games as they would in a typical spring. A lack of games was only the tip of the iceberg.

“As a team, we have had numerous weekends this season where players have been contact traced and put into isolation,” Ciuffreda said. “However, I believe that this team, which is primarily a very young group, has taken the attitude of ‘why not us.’ All season long we have had the backs of our teammates and the next man up has come in and contributed to a total team effort.”

Going into the tournament, the Leopards feel confident in their abilities and know what they have to do in order to succeed. 

“We know that when we play our game at the highest level, we can beat anyone,” Ciuffreda added. “We have a talented group of guys who are all hungry and excited to represent Lafayette in the Patriot League Tournament.”

The Leopards will square off with second-seeded Army West Point this weekend in the best-of-three series. Tomorrow’s doubleheader has games at 1 and 4 p.m., with a potential tiebreaker third game scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. All games will be played in West Point, N.Y. and streamed on ESPN+.