May 11, 2012
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -
Second-seeded Army exploded for five runs in the seventh, keyed by Alexis AuBuchon's two-run homer, to support Morgan Lashley's three-hit shutout as the Black Knights advanced to the championship round of the Patriot League Tournament with a 7-0 defeat of No. 4 Lafayette Friday.
Army (37-20), advancing for the first time since 2006 to the championship series, takes on top-seed and tournament host Lehigh at Kaufman Field on Saturday at 12 p.m. The Black Knights, who lost to the Mountain Hawks, 4-0, in a winners' bracket game in Friday's first game, have to beat Lehigh twice in the double elimination tournament in order to clinch their first title and fifth overall since 2002.
Army staked Lashley, the Patriot League's Pitcher and Rookie of the Year, to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on first-team all-league Alex Reynolds' (2-for-4) two-out RBI single up the middle. Her hit chased home April Ortenzo, 2-for-4, who opened the inning with a base hit up the middle and moved to second on Marina Northup's, 2-for-3, single to right center field.
Lafayette's Melissa Robinson's (13-24), touched for three of her 13 hits in the opening frame, did not allow Army an insurance run in stranding a pair of base runners. She held the Black Knights to just one hit over the next three innings before yielding a pair of hits in the fifth inning, but stranded both runners.
The Black Knights scored six runs over the final two frames en route to recording their fifth shutout this season over the Leopards after sweeping them in the four-game regular-season series.
With two outs in the top of the sixth inning, designated player Ali Cleinmark took the second pitch from Robinson and ripped a double (her fourth of the season) to right center field to chase home Reanna Johnson for a 2-0 Army lead. Johnson, who singled to left field and stole second, scored her first run in the tournament and 25th this season.
Army put the game out of reach in the top of the seventh in adding five runs on five hits on RBI singles by Ortenzo and Northup with Amanda Nguyen scoring on an error by the catcher to pad its lead to 5-0 with one out. AuBuchon, a first-team all-league selection, followed with a home run blast up the middle with Northup aboard to close out the scoring. The home run is her fifth of the season and career 12th.
While Army's offense was building on its lead, Lashley, who went the distance on a three hitter, struck out six and walked two, was masterful in the circle. The all-league RHP retired the side in the bottom of the first inning, and after the leadoff player reached on an error in the second inning, she mowed down the side on back-to-back groundouts and an infield popup.
With Army still clinging to its 1-0 lead, Lashley fanned the first two batters she faced in the third before issuing her first walk of the game. The runner was retired on a caught stealing on the combination from Rachael Duval to shortstop Ortenzo.
Lashley retired the next four batters she faced before being touched for her first hit of the game, a single by Robinson with one out in the fifth inning. She retired the next two batters, then was touched for a walk and hit in the top of the sixth as Lafayette reached scoring position for just the second time in the game.
An infield popup to the shortstop ended that threat. After yielding a hit to the leadoff batter in the seventh, Lashley retired the side in preserving her 11th shutout of the season and Army's 12th.
Army raked Robinson for 13 hits with Duval, Ortenzo, Nguyen, Northup and Reynolds each collecting a pair.
Army is 2-1 at the Patriot League Tournament and batting .291 led by Duval, who is hitting .625 (5-for-8) with three runs batted in and one run scored. Northup (4-for-9 hitting .444) and AuBuchon (3-for-9 hitting .333) each have driven in a pair of runs and scored a run. Ortenzo and Reynolds are 3-for-9 batting .333 and scored three and two runs, respectively, and each have an RBI. Lashley shows a 2.00 ERA and 2-1 mark over 21 innings in the circle.
Audio streamed broadcasts of Saturday's tournament are available via ITT Exelis Knight Vision, Army's official multimedia platform, with Rick Johnston providing the play-by-play. Fans can sign up for the subscription-based service by logging onto Army's official athletics website (www.goARMYsports.com).
Live stats for the Black Knights' games are offered via GameTracker on Army's official athletics website with Twitter updates also provided through Army's official Twitter handle (@ArmyAthletics).