May 7, 2014
WEST POINT, N.Y. - Army's softball team heads to the 2014 Patriot League Tournament where the Black Knights will be making their fifth straight appearance and 21st overall when they travel to Bethlehem, Pa., for the double-elimination tournament at Kaufman Field on the campus of host Lehigh.
The Black Knights (22-26, 9-9 PL), seeded fourth in the three-day (May 8-10) tournament, take on top-seeded Lehigh (30-18, 15-3 PL) in Thursday's opener at 12:05 p.m. Second-seeded Boston University (32-19, 13-5 PL) and No. 3 Bucknell (21-24, 10-8 PL) square off in the second game the opening day at 2:35 p.m.
The tournament continues Friday with the winners' bracket game scheduled for 10:35 a.m. followed by elimination games at 1:05 and 3:35 with the winner from the last game advancing to Saturday's championship round at 12:05 p.m. with a second game slated for 2:35 if needed.
At stake is the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. Army is the Patriot League's defending Tournament champion after shutting out Lehigh twice in last year's championship round, 4-0 and 5-0.
All four teams enter the fray with a clean slate and what they did against each other doing the regular season only matters for seeding purposes Though Army is the fourth seed, the team is geared with optimism high.
ARMY'S HISTORY IN THE PL TOURNAMENT: It is the fifth straight year Army qualified for the tournament and is the seventh time the Black Knights are seeded fourth and first since 2008.
It is the sixth time that fourth-seeded Army takes on top-seeded Lehigh in the opener with the Black Knights lone win a 7-4 decision in 2001. Army is looking to post it second opening-round win against the Mountain Hawks, who dominated the three-game series just a few days earlier.
ARMY LAST TIME AT THE PL TOURNAMENT: At the 2013 tournament, second-seeded Army was blanked by top-seeded Lehigh, 8-0 (5), in a winners' bracket game, but worked its way back for a rematch where the Black Knights shut out the Mountain Hawks twice in capturing their fifth title and first since 2002.
ARMY COACH Michelle DePolo: Is in her fifth season at Army and shows a 155-119 mark to rank second all-time. She was named Coach of the Year in 2010, her first year at the helm, when she captured the regular-season title. DePolo led Army to the championship round of the Patriot League Tournament in 2012 and 2013, along with the title in the latter.
ARMY IS NO STRANGER TO KAUFMAN FIELD: It is the 11th year that Lehigh is hosting the regular-season title and third straight. The Mountain Hawks, who won their third straight regular-season title and 19th overall, were the host school for the first eight tournaments when the league went to the highest seed (2002-09) after playing the early tournaments at Patriot's Park. Army snapped Lehigh's run in 2010 (Coach DePolo's first season) with Colgate winning the regular-season title in 2011.
THREE BLACK KNIGHTS EARN PATRIOT LEAGUE HONORS: Army heads to the tournament with three all-Patriot League selections in senior outfielder Amanda Nguyen (first team), sophomore third baseman Kasey McCravey and freshman pitcher Caroline Smith. It is the fourth straight year that Nguyen earned first-team honors and second straight for McCravey.
Nguyen joins an elite group of Black Knights to garner first-team Patriot League honors all four years. She is just the third Army player selected and second outfielder joining Hall of Famer Nicki Robbins (1999-2002). Third baseman Sheri Schweiker (1991-94) is also part of that fraternity.
The fastest player in school history, Nguyen is Army's career leader for hits (284), runs scored (160) and stolen bases (114) and is ranked second in batting (.371). She is also the Patriot League's leader for stolen bases and hits both season and career.
Nguyen paces Army with 59 hits, 35 runs scored, four triples and 28 stolen bases batting .353. She is ranked eighth in the league in batting, fifth in hits, fourth in triples and second in stolen bases. During the season, she pieced together a 12-game hitting streak. She is ranked 22nd in stolen bases and 31st in triples.
McCravey leads the Black Knights in batting (.392), doubles (10), home runs (seven), and RBI (43), along with ranking among the team leaders in hits (56), runs scored (21) and stolen bases (17). Her team-high 43 runs batted in lists third on Army's single-season chart and just two shy of the record, and her seven home runs are tied for third.
The Army third baseman ranks second in the league in RBI, home runs and slugging percentage (.622), lists third in total bases (89), fourth in batting average, tied for fifth in stolen bases and sixth in hits.
It is the second time in the last three years that an Army freshman pitcher garnered Patriot League honors with Smith's selection. The right-hander has drawn the bulk of duty in the circle and heads to the tournament with a 2.97 ERA and 12-11 mark in 132.0 innings, along with five shutouts, to include four solo. Equally as effective offensively, she is batting .326 with six of her 29 hits going for extra bases along with 11 runs batted in.
ALSO AMONG ARMY'S LEADERS: Senior shortstop April Ortenzo and freshmen Alee Rashenskas and Kristen West. Ortenzo rank among Army's leaders.
Ortenzo, a starter in all 48 games, is batting just under .300 and ranks among the team's leaders in RBI (28), runs scored (26), stolen bases 918) and hits (42).
Rashenskas, who earned a conference best four Patriot League weekly rookie citations, is among Army's offensive leaders as well. She stepped into the vacancy at second base and has been among four players to start all 48 games. She has the third highest batting average on the team (.340), which ranks 12th in the conference. Rashenskas is also third in hits (53) and runs scored (28) batting second behind leadoff hitter Nguyen In league games, she is batting .339. Senior
West, a pitcher, drew the starting nod in five of Army's last seven games. Her pair of shutouts against Holy Cross clinched a berth to the tournament and earned her rookie of the week honors. West is 5-6 this season and shows a 2.96 ERA in 90.0 innings.
ARMY VS.THE FIELD: The Black Knights posted a 9-9 mark in Patriot League games and only two of those wins were recorded against the tournament field. Army was swept by Lehigh, 5-3, 8-0 (5) and 9-1 (6), over the weekend and suffered a pair of losses in its three-game series with Bucknell and Boston University.
Army denied newest member Boston University a win in its Patriot League debut with a 9-3 decision, but the Terriers edged the Black Knights in the final two games, 6-4 and 7-4, to claim the series. Against Bucknell, Army won the series opener 7-1, but fell 7-2 in the next two games.
HOW TO FOLLOW THE GAMES: Fans unable to attend the tournament can follow both audio, video and live stats at the Patriot League Softball Championship Central. There will also be live stats on Army's website (www.goARMYsports.com) along with frequent twitter updates to @Army_WSoftball.