Offense Explodes As Army Sweeps Lehigh

Kevin McKague

Kevin McKague

April 8, 2012

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WEST POINT, N.Y. - Kevin McKague combined to go 7-for-8 with five doubles, six RBI and four runs scored, and Army scored a total of 28 runs as the Black Knights completed a four-game sweep of Lehigh by taking both ends of a Patriot League doubleheader from the Mountain Hawks on Sunday at Doubleday Field.

McKague was 3-for-3 with three doubles and three RBI to lead Army to an 11-6 come-from-behind victory in the first game. The senior first baseman then went 4-for-5 with two doubles, three runs batted in and three runs scored to help spark the Black Knights' 17-8 win in the nightcap.

Alex Jensen helped key Army's victory in the opener, going 3-for-4 with a double and four runs batted in. Zach Price and Daniel Cortes each collected three hits apiece in the nightcap as the Black Knights stormed out to a 13-0 lead after five innings and cruised to the win.

Army (23-8, 8-0 PL) remains in first place in the Patriot League standings following today's sweep. The Black Knights, who have won 18 of their last 22 games, hold a three-game cushion over Holy Cross following the first two weekends of conference play. Army, which has swept consecutive league weekends for the first time since 2005, is off to its best Patriot League start since joining the conference in 1993.

Lehigh (10-23-1, 2-6 PL) drops into a two-way tie with Navy for fifth place in the Patriot League standings. The Mountain Hawks have lost their last six conference contests after opening league play with a doubleheader sweep of Lafayette.

"Our pitching has been phenomenal all year, and today they needed a little bit of help, and our offense really came through for us," said Army head coach Joe Sottolano. "Whenever Lehigh had a big inning, we answered immediately. I was very impressed with the maturity, patience and aggressiveness that we showed on offense."

Army took a 1-0 lead in the second inning of the first game as Black Knights scratched out one run on two hits. Harold Earls singled with one out, stole second, moved to third on Jensen's base hit and scored when Jensen was thrown out attempting to steal second.

Lehigh came back with four runs on five hits in the top of the third to take a 4-1 advantage. Brendan McGaheran and Ryan Gajdos hit consecutive singles to begin the uprising and Joe Abeln reached on a fielder's choice to load the bases. Joe Conaway followed with a sacrifice fly to score McGaheran from third base with the game-tying run, and Casey Turner followed with an RBI single to give the Mountain Hawks a 2-1 edge. After Turner was called out on runner's interference, Conor Faust ripped an RBI single and John Elson blasted a run-scoring triple to cap the four-run outburst.

Lehigh's lead did not last long, though, as Army came back with five runs on five hits in the bottom of the third inning to move back in front, 6-4. The Black Knights sent 11 men to the plate in the inning. Andrew Johnson and Price strung together back-to-back singles to open the frame, and Cortes drew a walk to load the bases. McKague then lifted a sacrifice fly to center field to score the first run of the frame. Mark McCants and Cody Murtle followed with consecutive RBI singles to tie the score and Jensen put an exclamation point on the rally by smashing a two-run double down the left field line.

The Mountain Hawks rallied to tie the score in the top of the fourth on McGaheran's two-run homer. Thomas O'Malley led off the frame with a base hit and he scored in front of McGaheran, who hit a fly ball over the fence in left field.

The Black Knights responded again in the home half of the fourth inning, pushing across three unearned runs on two hits and a pair of Lehigh errors to take an 9-6 lead. Jensen capped the three-run uprising with a two-run single.

After holding the Mountain Hawks scoreless in the top of the fifth, the Black Knights rounded out the scoring in the bottom half of that frame as McKague hammered a two-run double into the gap in left center field to make it 11-6.

Army starter Logan Lee (3-1) earned his third win of the season despite yielding six runs on 11 hits in 4.1 innings. Gunnar Carroll tossed 2.2 innings of scoreless relief to pick up his third save of the year. The sophomore righty struck out three and permitted just a pair of base hits.

Brandon Sady (1-1) was saddled with the loss for Lehigh after giving up Army's three-run fourth inning.

Elson finished 3-for-3 to lead the Mountain Hawks' 13-hit attack in the opener. McGaheran, meanwhile, went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a pair of runs scored.

The Black Knights wasted little time jumping all over Lehigh in the second game of the doubleheader, plating four runs in the bottom of the second inning. Earls and Matthew Carter drew walks, and Johnson reached on a fielder's choice to load the bases for Price, who delivered an RBI single. Then, with the bases still loaded, McKague laced a three-run double to left center field. The four-run frame gave Army a quick 4-0 lead.

After a scoreless third inning, Army exploded for six more runs in the fourth. The Black Knights sent 10 men to the plate during the frame, which featured four walks issued by the Lehigh pitching staff. Price walked with one out and he advanced to third base on Cortes' double. McKague was then intentionally walked to load the bases. McCants and Murtle drew consecutive bases-loaded walks to force home a pair of runs. With the bases still loaded, Earls grounded a base hit through the right side of the infield to score two more runs. Murtle scored the fifth run of the inning when he scampered home on a wild pitch, and Carter drove home the sixth run of the frame on an RBI double to right center.

The Black Knights continued to plug away offensively in the fifth inning, scoring three runs on three hits to extend their lead to 13-0. Price tripled to deep center field leading off the frame and he scored on Cortes' sacrifice fly. McKague then doubled down the right field line and scored when the Lehigh center fielder misplayed Patrick Mescher's base hit. Mescher later plated the third run of the inning when the Lehigh third baseman committed a throwing error.

Lehigh got three runs back in the top of the sixth. Joe Conaway provided the big blow as the Mountain Hawks' first baseman slammed a towering two-run homer to left field.

Army countered in the bottom of the sixth inning as the Black Knights scored four more runs on four hits and one Lehigh miscue to open up a 17-3 cushion. Price singled with two outs and he scored all the way from first base when Cortes hit a double into the gap in left center field. Cortes then scored when McKague reached on an error by the Mountain Hawks' third baseman. Mescher followed with his second base hit in as many innings, and Murtle smashed a two-run double.

Lehigh pushed across four runs in the seventh inning to creep to within 17-7. McGaheran ripped an RBI double, Gajdos hit a run-scoring single and Abeln smashed a two-run homer to account for the scoring. The Mountain Hawks tacked on one more run in the eighth on Tim McKay's sacrifice fly.

Army starter Alex Robinett (2-1) earned the victory for the Black Knights. The freshman righty allowed seven runs on nine hits in seven innings. He struck out six and only permitted one walk.

Price was 3-for-5 with four runs scored and one RBI, while Cortes went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and a pair of RBI. Army outhit Lehigh, 16-11, in the nightcap.

Lehigh starting pitcher Jordan Smith (2-3) took the loss in the nightcap as the Mountain Hawks' right-hander failed to make it out of the second inning. He allowed four runs on four hits and two walks in 1.2 innings of work.

McGaheran, Gajdos, Abeln and Conaway combined to go 9-for-19 with seven RBI and six runs scored to lead Lehigh offensively.

Army returns to action on Tuesday, April 10, when the Black Knights travel to Loudonville, N.Y., to face Siena. The non-league contest is slated to begin at 4 p.m.

Game Notes: Army improves to 72-35 all-time versus Lehigh ... the Black Knights wore their white pinstripe uniforms with black caps today ... with 23 victories this year, Army has already surpassed last season's win total ... the Black Knights' 17 runs scored were the most since plating 17 versus NJIT during the 2009 season ... it marks the most runs scored versus a Patriot League opponent since plating 21 at Lehigh in 2009 ... with five doubles today, Kevin McKague moved into a tie with Clint Moore's (USMA '11) atop Army's all-time list with 51 career doubles ... McKague tied the Academy record with three doubles in the first game of today's doubleheader ... McKague also moved into fourth place on the Academy's all-time runs scored ledger (139) ... McKague has hit safely in eight straight games ... he leads Army with 13 multiple-hit games this season ... McKague also paces the team with seven multiple-RBI games this year ... Zach Price moved into a tie with Shaun Salmon (USMA '00) for fifth place on Army's all-time hits list (209) ... Price scored a career-high four runs in the nightcap ... he leads the Black Knights with seven three-hit games this season ... Daniel Cortes recorded the first two extra-base hits of his career in the nightcap, smacking a pair of doubles ... Cortes also matched his career bests with three hits and two RBI ... Andrew Flaherty's scoreless inning streak was snapped in the second game as the freshman righty allowed one run ... he had thrown 12.2 scoreless innings to begin his Army career ... Harold Earls drove in a career-high three runs in the nightcap ... he also matched his career best with two runs scored ... Patrick Mescher equaled his career best with two base hits in the nightcap ... Michael Sands saw his first action since March 17 when he was inserted into the game as a defensive replacement in the nightcap ... Alex Jensen drove in a career-high four runs in the opening contest.

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