So far the series between two of the best teams in the International League is going as expected.
Lehigh took a 2-1 lead in the four-game series, defeating Durham 9-1 at the DBAP on a muggy Saturday night. Owners of the second and third best records in the league, the Bulls and IronPigs didn’t meet at all in the first 96 games, but have put together a seesaw series over the weekend.
Lehigh took the series opener, 12-6, while Durham (60-39) managed to tie the series 1-1 with a 5-1 win Friday night. The rubber match was all IronPigs from the start, who scored two runs each in the first and second inning to take early control of the game with a 4-0 lead.
Lehigh designator hitter Rhys Hoskins got things started, with the cleanup hitter nailing a two-run homer, his 22nd of the season, to set the tone for the day. The IronPigs (62-38) scored back-to-back runs in the second to pad onto their lead.
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Durham starter Michael Roth (0-3) gave up nine hits, his most this season, and five runs, giving up one final run in the fifth to make it 5-1. The Bulls first, and only, run was an unearned run in the fourth. Durham took advantage of an error in the field by J.P. Crawford to get on the board. The IronPigs added a run in the seventh - single from Hoskins - and one in the eighth - single from Logan Moore - to take a 7-1 lead. The icing on the cake was a two-run home run from Dylan Cozens in the top of the ninth. Lehigh stayed consistent throughout the game, scoring in seven of the nine innings played.
Two numbers jumped off the stat sheet that played a big part in Durham’s downfall: 11 and 14. The Bulls had 11 runners left on base and were 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
“We just couldn’t sustain any rallies and get the big hit,” Durham manager Jared Sandberg said. “It affected the way we were unable to stay in the game. You tip your cap to Lehigh for coming out and slugging their way to a victory.”
The IronPigs have one of the best offenses in the league, and are a team you can’t avoid to make mistakes against, Sandberg said. Once they got runners on, they had plenty of power coming behind them in the lineup to bring the runners across home plate.
Lefty Brandon Leibrandt picked up the win, remaining perfect at 4-0. Leibrandt struck out four batters in five innings of work.
“He had good stuff, good poise,” Sandberg said. “He moved the ball around and kept us off balance. He made some pitches when he needed and their offense is really good.”
The Bulls and IronPigs wrap up the series on Sunday, with a 5:05 p.m. start time. Brent Honeywell (9-7) starts for Durham, while Ben Lively (7-1) starts for Lehigh.