Posted: May 10, 2008
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Juniors Alisha Gonzales and Whitney Lowe combined to drive in seven runs, as Lehigh advanced to the championship round of the Patriot League tournament for the fifth straight year with a 9-5 victory over Bucknell Saturday at Kaufman Field. The Mountain Hawks erased a pair of one-run deficits with a big six-run fifth inning, and are now just one win away from a fourth Patriot League tournament title in five years.
Lehigh improves to 37-14-1 and will face rival Lafayette, who won a pair of elimination games on Saturday, in Sunday’s championship round.
Bucknell, the designated home team in Saturday’s game, raced to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning on a two-out double to left field by Lauren Fry, which plated Ashley Carlson.
Lowe pulled Lehigh even in its next at bat with an RBI single up the middle that scored junior Lisa Sweeney.
In the bottom of the fourth, the No. 3 seed Bison edged out in front again, once again benefitting from a two-out base hit. This time Kristin Frick atoned for two earlier errors in the field with a single up the middle that scored pinch-runner Lauren Trosch.
The Mountain Hawks responded with six runs in the top of the fifth to take a lead which they would not relinquish. With nobody out, Lehigh loaded the bases without hitting the ball out of the infield as senior Megan Conrad reached on an single to shortstop, Kate Marvel bunted her way on with the help of a throwing error and freshman Carly Potock singled to third base. The next batter, freshman Alex Cueva, tied the game for a second time with a ground out to second base.
With the game tied 2-2 and just one out, the Bison chose to intentionally walk Sweeney; one of four free passes issued to her in the game, and Gonzales made the most of her opportunity with a two-run single that put the Brown and White up 4-2. Lowe then followed with a single to center which brought home two more runs to make it 6-2. With two outs, Lehigh mustered a second rally in the frame as senior Taryn Hanley doubled, and after a walk to Brooke Lewis, Conrad singled to left, scoring Hanley and capping a frame in which the Mountain Hawks scored six runs on six hits.
The Bison would not go quietly, however, as Bucknell put three runs of its own on the board in the last of the fifth inning. Gonzales delivered an exclamation point for Lehigh in the sixth with a two-run double to center off Bison starter Christie Wiest that rebuilt the Lehigh lead to four.
In the circle, Sweeney picked up the win despite not having her best stuff. The Patriot League Pitcher of the Year allowed base runners in every inning, but managed to limit the Bison to five runs on eleven hits, while walking two and striking out 13. Sweeney improves to 24-3 with the victory.
“Lisa really battled out there,” said Lehigh head coach Fran Troyan. “It’s very rare to see 13 strikeouts and eleven hits by the same pitcher. Offensively, Whitney Lowe and Alisha Gonzales gave us some clutch hits and as a team we executed our game plan. We will need to be at our best tomorrow, because Lafayette is a good team.”
Lehigh won for just the second time this season when being out-hit by its opponent. Erin Curatola went 3-for-4 off Sweeney to lead the Bison. Both teams had trouble handling the ball, as Bucknell was charged for four errors and Lehigh committed three.
Wiest was tagged with the loss and fell to 13-13 after allowing nine runs (seven earned) on nine hits. She struck out two and walked five, before giving way to Katie McDonald, who retired all five batters she faced.
In Saturday’s other tournament action, Lafayette eliminated Army with a 5-3 win in game four, and then avenged an extra-innings loss to Bucknell on Thursday as Christina Giambrone’s eighth inning home run propelled the Leopards to a 6-4 win in eight innings.
The 2008 Patriot League tournament concludes Sunday with the championship round, beginning at 10 a.m. with game six between Lehigh and Lafayette. The Mountain Hawks need just one win to capture their ninth Patriot League tournament title, while the Leopards will need to defeat Lehigh twice. Sunday’s games will be broadcast on 91.3 FM WLVR as well as online at Lehighsports.com beginning at 9:45 with the pregame show featuring the Fran Troyan Report.
Photos © 2008, Gregory Fota