The Navy baseball team clinched a spot in the 2023 Patriot League Championship with a 5-1 victory over the Lehigh Mountain Hawks in the second game of a doubleheader at J. David Walker Field at Legacy Park in Bethlehem, Pa. on Saturday. Despite being shut out 1-0 in the opener, the Midshipmen bounced back to secure their position in the league semifinals.
With the win, Navy improved their record to 21-23 overall and 13-11 in Patriot League play, guaranteeing them a better league finish than both Lehigh and Holy Cross. Navy will face Bucknell on Sunday, and a win combined with a Bucknell loss to Holy Cross would secure second place in the league and the right to host a semifinal series.
The first game of the doubleheader was a pitcher’s duel between Lehigh’s Luke Rettig and Navy captain Nate Mitchell. Rettig allowed just two hits over seven innings while striking out 11, and a second-inning solo home run from Joe Gorla was the deciding factor in the 1-0 Lehigh victory. Mitchell rebounded from last weekend to hold Lehigh to just four hits in six innings but suffered his third-straight loss despite limiting the Mountain Hawks to just four hits and two walks.
In the second game, Navy got a pair of strong pitching performances from Alex Smith and Nick Burch, who both hit home runs, and Liam Golden and Reece Early on the way to a 5-1 victory over Lehigh. Burch hit a double in the first inning and was driven in by Smith’s sacrifice fly, and Navy added another run in the second inning when Kyle Rausch and Brock Murtha got on base, and a sacrifice bunt from Ivan Aguirre moved them up one base, setting up Rausch to score on a passed ball. Smith’s solo blast in the fifth put the Mids ahead 3-0, and Lehigh responded with a home run in the bottom of the inning to cut the deficit to two. Navy added insurance in the seventh inning, and Early closed out the game with a highlight-reel final out.
Navy’s victory earned them a spot in the Patriot League Tournament for the 11th time over the past 12 tournaments, and Murtha and Diaz both extended their on-base streaks to 13 games. Burch’s home runs this season have all come in Patriot League play, and Early has not allowed an earned run in the month of April. Mitchell has gone five or more innings in 15 of his last 19 starts dating back to last season and has held the opposition to just one run in six of his 11 starts in 2023.
Navy holds a 97-53 edge in the all-time series with Lehigh, and their win on Saturday solidified their position in the league semifinals. The Patriot League Championship will take place in two weeks, and Navy will look to continue their momentum and compete for the title.