April 12, 2013
WEST POINT, N.Y. -
Army's softball team closes out its 12-game road slate this weekend when its heads to Bethlehem, Pa., for a crucial Patriot League series with Lehigh. It should be an exciting weekend at Kaufman Field in what is billed as a rematch of last year championship game with the No. 1 (Mountain Hawks) and No. 2 (Black Knights) teams in the preseason coaches and sports information directors poll going head-to-head.
Lehigh (20-13-1) is currently first in the league standings with a 6-2 mark and Army (19-16) is fourth at 4-4 after splitting its first two weekends of league action. The four-game series will feature doubleheaders Saturday and Sunday at Kaufman Field with first pitch both days set for noon. Live audio of Sunday's twinbill will be broadcast online at Lehighsports.com.
Army and Lehigh are ranked among the league leaders in every category with the Black Knights first in batting (.286) and fielding (.974) and second in pitching (3.06 ERA). The Mountain Hawks are first in pitching (2.03 ERA), second in fielding (.9630 and third in batting (.270).
Army and Lehigh players also rank among the league's leaders with Black Knight Amanda Nguyen first in hits (48) with teammates Kasey McCravey (41) and Alex Reynolds (41) tied for second followed by Mountain Hawk Alexis Watanabe (38).
Lehigh's Morgan Decker is the leader in runs batted (29) followed by teammate Liz Lucas (26), the league's preseason player of the year, with Army's April Ortenzo (24), McCravey (23) and Reynolds (21) rounding out that group.
Decker is batting .380 to rank fifth among the league's leaders with Nguyen hitting .366 followed by Reynolds (.353) and McCravey (.345). Nguyen and Lehigh's Rosie Roessel rank first (21) and second (15) in stolen bases, and McCravey and Decker are the leaders in total bases with 60 and 57, respectively.
Defensively, it will be a duel between the top three pitchers in the league in Army's Morgan Lashley and Lehigh's Emily Bausher and Rebecca Bliss. Lashley was last year's rookie and pitcher of the year, and Bliss is the preseason pitcher of the year.
Morgan leads the league for the second straight year in strikeouts (123), wins (15) and innings pitched (162). Bliss is second in wins (11) and Bausher is second in strikeouts (103). Bausher has limited opponents to a .208 batting average and shows a stingy 1.82 ERA with Bliss next at 1.83. Lashley shows a .228 opponent batting average and 2.72 ERA.
Lehigh's pitching has also been much improved of late as the Mountain Hawks have allowed just 15 runs and 26 hits over their last 11 games. The Mountain Hawks have allowed three runs in a game just once in that 11-game span. The Mountain Hawks swept a twinbill Wednesday from Fordham with Bliss and Bausher shutting down the Rams (6-1, 7-1) as they combined to allow just two runs and ten hits in 14 innings of work.
Army is coming off a split with Drexel on Wednesday, winning the opener 5-1 and dropping the nightcap 7-3. Thus far in league play, Army split its four-game series at home against Colgate and on the road at Holy Cross last weekend for a two-game lead over Bucknell and Lafayette, who are tied for fifth place with 2-6 marks. Colgate and Holy Cross share second place with respective 5-3 records.
Lehigh has taken three of four games, led by second day sweeps, the first two weekends of league play after splitting the first-day doubleheaders against Bucknell and Lafayette.
It was a different scenario when Army and Lehigh met in last year's series with the regular-season title on the line with the Black Knights needing to take three games and the Mountains two. Army won the opener, 2-0, on Lashley's four-hit shutout as the Black Knights became the winningest team in school history in snapping the school mark of 33 wins. Lehigh rebounded for a 6-0 nightcap win behind Bliss' two-hitter, then swept the next day, 3-2 and 6-4, to clinch the title.
At last year's league championships, Army advanced to the championship finals for the first time since 2006, but fell to Lehigh 2-0 as Bliss fired a two-hit shutout with Lashley tagged with the loss after going the distance on a five-hitter.
Following the weekend action, Army returns home to open eight-game home stretch starting Tuesday hosting Iona in a non-league twinbill that starts at 3:30.