BETHLEHEM, Pa. – In its first action this season at Kaufman Field, the Lehigh softball team evened its season record with a pair of come-from-behind wins over Niagara on Saturday afternoon. The Mountain Hawks scored four times in the bottom of the fifth to take game one 7-5 and then senior Alex Cueva’s sixth-inning RBI single gave Lehigh a 5-4 win in the nightcap.
With the victories, Lehigh moves to 11-11 on the season, while Niagara drops to 7-7.
Niagara took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning of game one, benefitting from a two-out Lehigh error, but the Mountain Hawks answered by capitalizing on several Purple Eagle defensive miscues to score three runs in the bottom of the third. With two outs, junior Audra Wood prolonged the inning when her grounder was bobbled by Kayla Hines. After a walk to Cueva, junior Julie Fernandez doubled to left to score two runs, giving Lehigh a 2-1 lead. Sophomore Liz Lucas then followed with a fly ball to right that Alexis Wayne misplayed in the sun for a double, which allowed Fernandez to score.
A two-out rally helped Niagara regain the lead on a passed ball, a wild pitch by sophomore Becca Bliss and then a solo home run to center field by Sarah Anthon. The Purple Eagles tacked on another unearned run in the top of the fifth, forcing Lehigh to rally in the bottom of the frame.
Wood started the rally with a leadoff walk, and a single by Cueva and a walk to Lucas allowed Lehigh to load the bases with one out. Junior Tenley Halaquist singled to left center to bring home the tying runs, and senior Carly Potock followed with a double to deep center that scored pinch runner Kristen Mitchell and Halaquist with the go-ahead runs.
Each team had six hits and committed three errors in the opener. Bliss allowed five runs, but just one earned run in seven innings. She walked three and struck out five as she improves to 5-2 on the season. Kim Bryson took the loss for Niagara, allowing four earned runs on six hits. Bryson walked four and struck out eight for the Purple Eagles.
Game two started favorably for the Purple Eagles, who scored two runs in the first inning on a RBI triple by Teresa Healy and a two-out RBI single by Jen Hare; and added a third run on a second-inning double by Maggie McDonald.
Potock led Lehigh in game two going 3-for-3, and started a second-inning Lehigh rally with a leadoff triple. Sophomore Jacqi Kennelly singled her home to put Lehigh on the board, and after a double by freshman Lizzy Odren, Wood singled down the left field line, scoring Kennelly to cut Lehigh’s deficit to 3-2.
Kristin Sito extended Niagara’s lead with a two-out RBI single in the fourth inning, but the Mountain Hawks answered with two runs of their own in the bottom of the frame to tie the game at four. Lehigh had runners on first and second with two outs, Anthon misplayed Fernandez’ fly ball to left field for a two-base error, allowing Wood and Cueva to score the tying runs.
The game remained tied into the sixth inning, when sophomore Rosie Roessel led off the bottom of the frame with a bunt single and then stole second base. A ground ball to the right side by Wood moved Roessel over to third and then Cueva smacked a sharp single to left field to bring home the go-ahead run.
Healy led off the seventh inning with a double, but freshman Ashley Quigley secured the win for the Mountain Hawks, retiring the side with two fly balls to the outfield and a pop-up to Halaquist at second base to end the game.
Quigley earned the win for Lehigh, coming out of the bullpen with 3.2 innings of scoreless, four-hit relief as she improves to 4-6 on the season. Freshman Kelsey Lee started and allowed four runs (two earned) on seven hits in 3.1 innings. Lee struck out two and did not walk a batter.
Bri Allen was saddled with the loss for Niagara, allowing five runs (three earned) on 11 hits.
Lehigh and Niagara will wrap-up their four-game series with a doubleheader beginning Sunday at noon from Lehigh’s Kaufman Field.