LEWISBURG, Pa. – Dominic Toso had two hits and two RBIs, and Bucknell received terrific relief pitching from Jack Simpson and Brenden Tuttle in a 4-1 win over Lehigh in front of a large group of alumni on Sunday at sunny Depew Field. With the victory, the Bison took two of the three games in the weekend series and solidified their postseason positioning in the standings.
Bucknell is now 11-9 in Patriot League play and remains in a virtual tie for third place with Holy Cross, which defeated Lafayette on Sunday to get to 9-7. Both teams are 3.5 games behind first-place Navy, but the Crusaders are percentage points ahead of Bucknell in the standings by virtue of playing fewer games to this point. Fifth-place Lehigh fell to 5-12, which is 4.5 games behind the Bison for the fourth and final Patriot League Tournament berth.
The Bison and Mountain Hawks split a doubleheader on Saturday, with Connor Van Hoose pitching a no-hitter in the opener. In Sunday’s rubber game, Bucknell staked starting pitcher Jack Grabek to a quick 2-0 lead on Toso’s two-run single in the bottom of the first inning.
Lehigh tallied an unearned run in the third inning on James Bleming’s sacrifice fly. Grabek, who was working on three days of rest after starting at Navy on Wednesday, ran into some control problems in the fourth, but Simpson came out of the bullpen and struck out Matt Hand with the bases loaded to end the threat.
Simpson went on to work 4.1 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out two. In the later innings he benefitted from two big insurance runs and some terrific defense behind him.
After scoring the two runs in the first, Bucknell could not muster much offensively until the bats came alive again in the sixth. With a runner at first and one out, Luke Hartman hit a line drive into the left-center alley that rolled all the way to the fence. Hartman legged out his second triple of the year, and he trotted home one pitch later on an opposite-field double by Evan Klugerman.
Now leading 4-1, Simpson fashioned a 1-2-3 seventh inning, capped by a sensational play by Keifer Rawlings at third base. Rawlings gloved a sharp grounder with a backhand behind the bag, and Miles Moore scooped the long throw on the other end to nab Ryan Bonshak by a stride.
Bleming sent a drive into deep center field to start the eighth, but Chuckie Scales ran it down with a reaching grab to prevent an extra-base hit. After a walk to Tony Gallo, Simpson induced a 6-4-3 double play to end his day.
Tuttle, the freshman closer, faced three batters in the ninth and struck them all out for his fourth save.
Luke Johnson also had two hits for the Bison, who outhit Lehigh 8-4 in the game.
Prior to the game, Bucknell recognized the many donors who helped bring the Depew Field (baseball) and Becker Field (softball) projects to fruition. The multi-phase renovations introduced an entrance plaza and new playing surfaces, scoreboards, dugouts, fencing, and just this year, grandstands and pressboxes to the adjacent facilities.
Bucknell will play a non-league game at Penn State on Tuesday at 6 p.m., then it will wrap up the regular season next weekend with doubleheaders at Lafayette and Lehigh.