May 10, 2012
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -
Senior Rachael Duval laced a clutch two-out single to left field to drive home Alex Reynolds with the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth inning as second-seeded Army posted a 4-3 opening round win over third-seeded Colgate at the Patriot League Tournament Thursday afternoon at Kaufman Field.
The Black Knights (36-19) advance to Friday's 11 a.m. winners' bracket game of the double-elimination tournament to take on top-seed and host Lehigh (38-17), a 2-0 winner over No. 4 Lafayette.
The victory is Army's first opening-round win at the tournament since defeating Colgate by the same score (4-3) in 2005. It is the third straight year that the Black Knights and Raiders have met in the opening round of the tournament, and it is Army's first win during that span. The Black Knights are 9-2 in opening round games against Colgate and 13-6 overall.
"Today's game was a well-deserved win and confidence booster for the team," noted third-year coach Michelle DePolo. "The game was won in true Army softball fashion; an all out team effort with great defense and timely hitting.
"Every player made a vital contribution to the end result. Although we focus on the here and now and don't pay much attention to past experiences, it's certainly nice to win the first game versus Colgate of all teams, a team that has not only had our number the past two years during the regular season, but who we've lost to in the opening round the past two seasons."
Colgate (19-27) jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning, but that proved short lived as Army erased that on Duval's two-out RBI single up the middle delivering pinch runner Ashton Wolf and Reynolds in the home half for a 2-1 lead.
The Black Knights collected three of their five hits off Courtney O'Connell in that frame with Alexis AuBuchon, 2-for-2, leading off with a single and moving to second on a single by Reynolds, 2-for-3. After AuBuchon gave way to Wolf at second base, both runners moved up a base on a sacrifice bunt followed by a strikeout. Duval, who was 2-for-3 with three RBI, took a 2-2 pinch and slammed it into the gap in center field.
Marina Northup's RBI groundout in the third inning delivered April Ortenzo, who led off with a double, as Army padded its lead to 3-1. Colgate plated a single run in the fourth and tied the game 3-3 in the top of sixth.
Rachel LeCoq (8-13), who had taken over the circle for the Raiders in the bottom of the fourth, kept Army off the scoreboard the first two frames she pitched before the Black Knights forged ahead with the game winner in the bottom of the sixth to pull out the decision.
A leadoff walk, a hit by Reynolds and back-to-back fielder's choices moved Reynolds to third where Duval took the first pitch offered to lift Army to the victory. The win is the Black Knights second straight over the Raiders this season after defeating them 8-4 in closing out the regular-season series that snapped a 10-game series losing streak.
Freshman right-hander Morgan Lashley, the league's Rookie and Pitcher of the Year, retired the side in the top of the seventh to preserve the win in her first league tournament appearance. Ranked No. 2 in the country in wins, Lashley improved to 32-14 scattering eight hits, walking one and striking out two.
"Morgan gave another solid performance, especially for a freshman facing a team the fifth time this year," added DePolo who is just three shy of the 100-win milestone. "More importantly, the defense played very solid around her from the catcher calling the game, blocking important balls, and throwing base runners out, along with all four infielders who each had stellar defensive plays and all three outfielders who saw quite a bit of action on a field with a deep fence.
"Our offense did a great job executing with well hit balls and never pressed, even in crunch time. I couldn't be happier for Rachael Duval, a senior who has been in a bit of a slump this season and was clearly the MVP of the game.
The Black Knights are looking to clinch their fifth Patriot League title and first since 2002, along with their third automatic bid to the NCAA Regionals, this weekend.
"We always stress that the first game is the most important, but this tournament is far from over," continued DePolo. "Game one is absolutely crucial, not only to standings but to preserving the energy of our small roster. Within two hours the Colgate victory needs to be behind us and our minds are going to be on Lehigh.
"They are a very formidable opponent and I expect another very close game. When we played just under two weeks ago, the reigning Patriot League Player of the Year, Jenn Colquhoun was out with an injury. She's back now and their potent line-up is at full strength again. Our team played outstanding in the series and just came up shy."
Army went 1-3 in its regular-season series with Lehigh at West Point two weeks ago. The Black Knights won the series opener, 2-0, but Lehigh swept the remaining three games, using the long ball in the top of the seventh to sweep the final day series, 3-2 and 5-4.
The winner of the Army-Lehigh game advances to Saturday's championship round at 12 p.m. with the loser dropping into the final game on Friday at 4 p.m.