No. 2 Army Begins Quest For PL Softball Crown

Head coach Michelle DePolo

Head coach Michelle DePolo

May 9, 2012

WEST POINT, N.Y. - The Army softball team begins its quest for the 2012 Patriot League title and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, May 10, when the second-seeded Black Knights (35-19, 14-6 PL) take on third-seeded Colgate (19-26, 12-8 PL) at Kaufman Field in Bethlehem, Pa. The double-elimination tournament, hosted by top-seeded Lehigh (37-17, 18-2 PL), continues Friday, May 11, and concludes Saturday, May 1.

Audio streamed broadcasts of the softball tournament will be 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 ( Live stats for the Black Knights' games will be offered via GameTracker on Army's official athletics website with Twitter updates also provided through Army's official Twitter handle (@ArmyAthletics).

Defending tournament champion and host Lehigh takes on fourth-seeded Lafayette (13-38, 7-13 PL) in the opening round game on Thursday at 12 p.m. followed by the Army-Colgate matchup. On Friday, the winners from the first two games play at 11 a.m., with the losers meeting at 1:30 p.m. in an elimination game. The fifth game of the tournament will be between the loser of Game 3 vs. the winner of Game 4 at 4 p.m., with the tournament wrapping up Saturday with the championship game at 12 p.m.

Army qualified for the conference's postseason tournament the last three years under head coach Michelle DePolo, who is closing in on her 100th career milestone with 96 wins over that stretch to include two 30-win seasons.

The Black Knights, making their 19th tournament appearance, captured Patriot League championships in 1991, 1992, 2000 and 2002, the last two as the No. 2 seed. Army will be looking to advance to the tournament finals for the first time since 2006 and 11th overall. It is the first time the Black Knights enter the tournament at the No. 2 seed since 2005.

Army will be looking to capture its first league crown since 2002 and fifth overall in its bid to return to the NCAAs for the third time in school history. During Army's last appearance at the NCAA Regionals in 2002, the Black Knights set school history with their 2-0 defeat of Utah in the second game of the Region 5 Tournament in Norman, Okla. They bowed, 4-0, to top-seeded Texas, led by Olympian Cat Osterman, in the first game, and later suffered a 2-0 defeat to Arkansas in elimination game.

The last time Army captured the league crown was at Kaufman Field where they defeated top-seeded Lehigh, 2-1, n the championship game after rallying with two outs in its final at bat. Two years prior, Army defeated top-seeded Lehigh, 12-10, in eight innings in the title game at Patriots Park in Allentown, Pa.

The Black Knights are ranked among the league leaders in every statistical category. Army is second to Lehigh in batting (.283) and pitching (3.04 ERA) followed by Colgate and Lafayette, but the Black Knights have the league's top pitcher in freshman Morgan Lashley.

The right-hander made league history as the first player to garner a pair of major awards in being named the rookie and pitcher of the year. Lashley holds Army and league single-season marks for wins (31), which rank second nationally, appearances (52), starts (47) and innings pitched (300), along with posting a league-high 223 strikeouts which rank 30th nationally with her 10 shutouts listing 10th.

The Black Knights head into the tournament with six all-stars to include four first-team selections in Lashley, first baseman Alexis AuBuchon, second baseman Alex Reynolds and outfielder Amanda Nguyen. All three rank among the league's leaders with AuBuchon topping the Black Knights with a .392 batting average while hitting .475 in league play. She ranks first on the club in runs batted in (37) and total bases (87) along with a .551 slugging percentage and .452 on-base percentage. She has four home runs and 11 doubles among her 62 hits.

Reynolds, hitting out of the No. 3 spot in the lineup, is tied for the lead in home runs (four) and ranks second in RBI (29) and third in runs scored (29) in picking up her second straight certificate as a first-team all-star. Nguyen, a two-time first-team selection, has been Army's offensive spark plug on the bases from her No. 2 spot in the batting order along with leadoff hitter April Ortenzo. Nguyen's team-high 19 stolen bases, 68 hits and 35 runs scored ranks second in the league in steals and third in the next two categories. Ortenzo is second on the team in runs scored (34) and tops the Black Knights with 15 doubles, which lists second in the league, along with ranking among Army's and the conference's leaders in hits (59) and batting average (.319).

Reanna Johnson and freshman Rae Anne Payleitner picked up certificates in the outfield and as a utility player, respectively, as members of the All-Patriot League second unit. It is the second citation for Johnson and first since her freshman year as the senior is enjoying her best offensive season since her sophomore year. Payleitner is batting .338 with nine of her 19 hits going for extra bases along with 18 RBI in 28 games.

ARMY VS. THE FIELD: Army is 6-6 vs. the tournament field. The Black Knights swept Lafayette at home and took one game from both Colgate and Lehigh.

ARMY-COLGATE: Army and Colgate will be locking horns for the third straight year in the Patriot League Tournament opener while squaring off for the 11th time overall. The Black Knights are 8-2 in openers against the Raiders, bowing to them the last two years, while listing 12-6 overall in opening games. The Raiders, who bounced Army from the league tournament last year in beating the Black Knights twice, are 5-7 against the tournament field.

Colgate swept the first three games in this year's regular-season series beating Army in its final at-bats to sweep the first day doubleheader, 4-1 and 5-4. The Black Knights snapped loose with an 8-4 decision in the fourth game that put the skids to a 10-game series losing streak. AuBuchon batted .417 (5-for-12) in the series with four RBI ,with Ortenzo scoring four runs and Reynolds three along with driving in another. Lashley posted a 1-2 mark pitching 23 of 25 innings and was touched for 12 earned runs. Colgate's Rachel LeCoq posted a 0.89 ERA in hurling the Raiders to two of the wins.

In the 8-4 nightcap win over Colgate, Lashley scattered five hits and struck out three, and Reynolds drove in a pair of runs as Army rallied for the win and a split of a the doubleheader after being shut out 7-0 in the first game.

Trailing 1-0 after the first inning, Army tied the game in the fourth inning, then capitalized on three hits and an error for a pair of runs in the fifth and a 3-1 lead. Colgate answered with a run in the bottom of the fifth to pull to 3-2, but Lashley retired seven of the next eight batters she faced before being touched for a pair of runs in the seventh. By that time Army had built an insurmountable 8-2 lead behind three runs in the sixth and two more in the fifth banging out eight hits in those two frames along with capitalizing on a pair of errors.

ARMY-LEHIGH: The Black Knights and Mountain Hawks entered their four-game series in charge of their own destiny in the bid for the regular-season title. Army needed to take three games and Lehigh had to win two to clinch its first regular-season title since 2009 to claim its 17th overall in the last 20 years in the league's 22-year history.

Army won the opener, 2-0, as Lashley fired a four-hit shutout and 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 Rebecca Bliss' two-hitter as both teams remained in the hunt.

Lehigh, who swept its four-game series with Colgate and Lafayette for an 11-1 showing against the field, took both games the second day, 3-2 and 6-4 to clinch the title. The Mountain Hawks used the long ball in the seventh inning in both wins to beat Army. Lehigh's Julie Fernandez' solo shot snapped a 2-2 tie in the first game with Liz Lucas ripping a three-run homer in a come-from-behind win that erased a 4-2 deficit. Bliss had a hand in all three wins, hurling Lehigh to the first two wins and picking up the save in the third game throwing shutout ball over 15.0 innings holding Army to a .137 batting average. Fernandez batted .500 in the series with five RBI as Lehigh collected 30 hits and scored 14 runs while holding Army to eight runs.

ARMY-LAFAYETTE: Lashley threw 28 scoreless innings in hurling Army to a sweep of the four-game series and struck out 22 batters, issuing just six walks in holding the Leopards to a .179 batting average. Nguyen batted .615 (8-for-13) with four runs scored with AuBuchon driving in four runs and Marina Northup chipping in with two as the Black Knights won 2-0, 4-0, 1-0 and 1-0.

The Leopards, 2-10 against the field, secured their first bid to the four-team Patriot League Tournament since 2009, finishing two games ahead of fifth-place Bucknell for the final spot.

ARMY IN THE NATIONAL RANKINGS: Lashley lists second in wins (31), one off the leader, after raking first in back-to-back weeks. She is 10th in shutouts (10) and 30t h in strikeouts (223). Nguyen is eighth in sacrifice hits per game (0.31 Ortenzo is 53rd in doubles per game (0.28) and AuBuchon is 70th in batting average (.392)

PL TOURNEY HISTORY: Army is making its 19th appearance in the 22nd year of the Patriot League Tournament. The Black Knights had a run of nine straight appearances snapped in 2009. Army failed to qualify for the tournament in 1998 and 1999, when the league went to the four-team format, and again in 2009. In the early years, the tournament was held at Patriots Park in Allentown, Pa., before the league changed the format to the host sites in 2002. Lehigh was the only team to host the tournament under the new guidelines until Army snapped is eight-year run in 2010 and Colgate hosted last year's tournament.

Lehigh is also the lone team to appear in all 22 tournaments, followed by Colgate (21), Army (19) and Lafayette (13). The Patriot League Tournament was a full-field event from 1991 through 1997 and again in 2000. In 1998 and 1999, and from 2001 on, it is has been a four-team qualifying field.

Lehigh has won 11 titles - its last in 2009 Army has won four titles - last in 2002 Colgate has won three titles - last in 2007 Lafayette looking for its title

FOUR TOURNAMENT TITLES: The Black Knights have captured four Patriot League Tournament crowns, winning back-to-back titles (1991 and 1992) the first two years, while an automatic NCAA bid went with the winner in 2000 and 2002.

FIRST ROUND SHOWING: Army is 12-6 in tournament openers posting its last first round win in 2005 in a 4-3 edging of No. 3 Colgate. This is the 11th time and third straight year that the Black Knights have drawn the Raiders in the opener with Army showing an 8-2 mark.

CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS: Army has reached the championship finals 10 times, including a run of five straight years. The last time the Black Knights vied for the title was in 2006. The Black Knights reached the tournament finals in 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Army moved through the winners' bracket into the championship round in 1992, 1994, 2000, 2002 and 2005 winning the title three of those times - 1992, 2000 and 2002.

PRESEASON PICKS: Defending tournament champion Lehigh was picked first, Colgate was second, Army third and Lafayette tied for fifth place with Bucknell.

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