Early Thursday evening, Ray Bartoli’s pitching career at Army came full circle. Never had he ever pitched a complete game at the collegiate level. He was able to do so in the final game of a best-of-three series, to win his third Patriot League tournament title.
The Black Knights didn’t have the easiest route there though.
In both the @PatriotLeague Championship Semifinal and now Final series-clinching games, Bartoli goes the distance— Army Baseball (@ArmyWP_Baseball) May 27, 2021
Final line in tonight's championship-clinching victory
0 BB #GoArmy pic.twitter.com/0q2T1ZUN9k
The series started on Wednesday afternoon after a 10-day rest. In front of a large crowd of pro scouts for Lehigh pitcher Mason Black, the Mountain Hawks would get to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning. But, a seven-run fourth inning by Army changed the tides of the game.
Both Anthony Giachin and Ross Friedrick would hit three doubles each on the afternoon for the Black Knights, combining for five RBI. Cameron Cerruto hit two home runs in the game, resulting in five RBI himself, as the Black Knights took game one by a score of 22-7.
Early on Thursday afternoon, it was announced that the two teams would play a doubleheader to determine the champion.
Lehigh would take a 2-1 lead early in game two, as Army couldn’t seem to get any of their runners in. The Black Knights would strand six in scoring position on the afternoon, which was ultimately the difference. Lehigh scored one more in the fourth, giving them a 3-1 score, which lasted through the final out.
Army relief pitcher, Connley Early ultimately ended up being the difference on the day. After a rough first three innings for starter Robbie Buecker, Early came in and threw five innings of one-hit ball for the Black Knights, saving their bullpen arms for game three.
In that third game, the Black Knights would get out to an early 3-0 start. They would score another in the fifth, but Lehigh instantly responded with their first and only run of the game.
Senior Ray Bartoli would finish Patriot League play with a moment to remember as he pitched his first complete game of his collegiate career, striking out five batters and allowing just six hits across 121 pitches, sending the Black Knights to their third straight NCAA Tournament. They closed out the Mountain Hawks tournament hopes with a 6-1 win in Bethlehem.
The Black Knights will find out their NCAA Tournament destination on Monday at noon ET on ESPN2. Fellow academy side Air Force is deep in the bubble, but have a crucial series against Fresno State this weekend.