April 29, 2012
WEST POINT, N.Y. -
Lehigh rallied behind the long ball to complete a doubleheader sweep of Army, taking a 3-2 first game win that clinched the Patriot League regular-season title, then overcoming a 4-2 deficit to win the nightcap, 5-4. The Black Knights (34-18) closed out conference play with a 14-6 mark to earn the No. 2 seed at the tournament being hosted by the Mountain Hawks, May 10-12.
In the first game, Julie Fernandez ripped a two-out solo home run over the left field fence in the top of the seventh to snap a 2-2 tie, and winner Rebecca Bliss (17-6) struck out the side in the bottom half as the Mountains Hawks won their first regular-season title since 2009.
Lehigh jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on Cassie Waggy's RBI single. Army tied the game 1-1 in the home half when Bliss overthrew third base trying to get April Ortenzo, who drew a walk and was sacrificed to second, on a fielder's choice option.
The Black Knights snapped the tie in the bottom of the fourth inning after capitalizing on a pair of hits and an error to pull ahead 2-1. Marina Northup laced a leadoff single to left field, moved to third on Alex Reynolds' double and scored on the third baseman's misplay of Alex Gaff's grounder with two outs.
Lehigh retied the game 2-2 in its next at bat on Liz Lucas' bases loaded walk that forced in Rosie Roessel with one out. Morgan Lashley denied the Mountain Hawks from breaking the tie by getting out of that bases loaded jam on a groundout and strikeout in retiring seven straight batters before being touched for Fernandez' home run in the top of the seventh.
Trailing 1-0 after the first inning of the nightcap, Army tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the second on Alexis AuBuchon's leadoff home run that bounced off the scoreboard in left field. Lehigh snapped the tie in the top of the third on Fernandez' RBI single to pull ahead 2-1.
The Black Knights took their first lead when Reanna Johnson smacked a two-run homer with one out to left field scoring herself and AuBuchon, who led off with a single, for a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning. Army padded its advantage to 4-2 on pinch hitter's Ali Cleinmark's RBI single to left field off relief pitcher Ashley Quigley in the bottom of the sixth. Johnson, who was 1-for-3 with two runs batted in and two runs scored, slid home from second base after reaching on a fielder's choice and stealing second base.
Army relief pitcher Jules Steurer, who took over from Lashley in the fourth inning, yielded a leadoff single to Audra Wood in the top of the seventh. Morgan returned to the circle and intentionally walked Fernandez, who was 3-for-5 with a run and three RBI in the twinbill. Lucas, who was hitless in her first three at bats, took the second pitch offered for a three-run homer to left field that made a winner of Quigley (4-1).
Bliss, who went the distance on the win in the first game, picked up the after taking over the circle in the bottom of the seventh were she retired the side on groundouts.
"I thought the team did an exceptional job this weekend," said Army head coach Michelle DePolo. "I can't express how very, very proud I am of them. We knew in order to represent well we were going to have play tough and put together all three aspects of our game: offense, defense, and pitching.
"For three of the games we did that and I couldn't be more pleased with their performance, but moreover their mental attitude. After losing a dog fight in game three the team knew the hunt for first was over and so was the ability to host; however, we still came out dialed in, and completely focused against Bausher and a relentless Lehigh team. We fought from deficits and played outstanding. Game four's loss was heart wrenching and the team deserved more. Jules and the defense did a stellar job, we were simply out coached.
"Despite the win/loss record our team earned a tremendous amount of well deserved respect this weekend," added the third-year mentor. "We shut them out once for only the third time this year, we put runs on the board each game against their top pitchers and we made them earn their wins. Now, we have our eyes and hearts focused on the tournament. This group has experienced a conference title and a record setting season, but we haven't experienced a trip to the NCAA's. We've got another shot at every team and we will be prepared."
Sunday's twinbill was Senior Day for Alexis AuBuchon, Rachael Duval, Reanna Johnson and Clara Navarro who led Army to three straight tournament appearances compiling 116 victories.
The Black Knights close out their regular-season schedule when they visit Marist on Wednesday, May 2, for a non-conference doubleheader before heading the league tournament being hosted by Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pa., May 10-12, with the winner earning the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Colgate (19-24, 12-8 PL) is the No. 3 seed with Lafayette (13-36, 7-13) clinching the final fourth spot after defeating Bucknell 2-0 in the first game today.