HAMILTON, N.Y. – Sophomore Liz Lucas crushed three home runs and drove in seven as Lehigh won its sixth Patriot League Tournament title in the last eight years with a 14-0, five-inning pounding of Colgate Saturday at Eaton Street Field. Senior Sam Miller also homered and sophomore Becca Bliss threw a six-hit shutout as Lehigh wins its 11th tournament crown and returns to the NCAA tournament after a one year hiatus.
Bliss fired back-to-back shutouts against the top-seeded Raiders to earn tournament MVP honors. She was joined on the All-Tournament team by juniors Audra Wood and Julie Fernandez and Lucas.
"Whatever we did to get the team going offensively worked well," said Lehigh head coach Fran Troyan. "Liz Lucas, Julie Fernandez, Audra Wood – they all played tremendously and that’s just to mention three of them."
After hitting Patriot League Pitcher of the Year Rachel LeCoq hard on Friday, Lehigh got to the freshman right hander early on Saturday. With two outs, LeCoq walked Fernandez and Lucas followed with her first home run, a two-run blast just to the right of the flagpole in center field as Lehigh took a 2-0 lead after one inning.
Lehigh continued its assault capitalizing on LeCoq’s wildness in the second. The Mountain Hawks loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batsman. Wood hit a ground ball to second base, but Natalie Siedhof’s throw home pulled sister Nicole off the plate as Tenley Halaquist slid in safely with Lehigh’s third run. Two batters later, Fernandez singled up the middle to score two runs, and a third run came around on a throwing error by Colgate’s Jennifer Ortega.
Fernandez’ hit chased LeCoq from the game and Lucas greeted Michelle Hollebeke with a two-run homer to the left of the flags in center field, which extended Lehigh’s lead to 8-0.
Junior Jen Colquhoun extended Lehigh’s lead with an RBI double that scored senior Alex Cueva in the fourth inning.
Needing just three outs to end the game, the Mountain Hawks put up five more runs in the top of the fifth to grow their lead to 14. Senior Sam Miller delivered a pinch-hit solo home run to right with one out, her first home run of the season. Fernandez singled home sophomore Rosie Roessel, and Lucas then capped the scoring with a long three-run bomb to left center off Courtney O’Connell.
"I just saw the ball really well," said Lucas. "That helped, and I got some good pitches to hit out."
The blast, her third off three different pitchers gives her ten home runs and 48 RBI for the season. Lucas’ three homers and eight RBI in the tournament set a new Patriot League tournament record.
"Early in the year Liz was really in the zone," Troyan said. "I could tell pretty early on yesterday that she was getting back into a groove and I knew she has the ability to carry a team and she did that today."
In the bottom of the fifth, Bliss retired the first two batters before giving up a single to Alana Dyson, but she got Jennifer Ortega to ground out to Cueva at third base to end the game.
Bliss improved to 16-6 on the season with her fourth shutout of the year. She allowed six hits and struck out three Raiders, while issuing zero walks. Bliss was 2-0 in the tournament with a save and just one run allowed 13 innings of work.
"We came in knowing that we had to keep the ball down," said Lucas, who caught all 17 innings of the tournament for the Mountain Hawks. "If the ball got up, Colgate’s talented enough to do some damage. We put a lot of pressure on our pitchers to keep the ball down. Becca came through and had a really good series."
Lehigh’s 14 runs came on nine hits. Aside from Lucas’ three hits, Julie Fernandez had a pair of RBI singles, while Cueva, Colquhoun, Miller and Roessel had one hit apiece. The win was the most lopsided in Patriot League championship game.
"This shows how a team, when committed can really grow as a team," Troyan explained. "In the beginning of the year we were not very good, but we worked hard every day and the kids came with a great attitude every day and because of that we peaked at the right time. This group certainly deserves this championship."
LeCoq only lasted 1.1 innings for Colgate and took the loss, allowing seven runs on two hits. She walked five and struck out one as she falls to 17-9. Colgate’s season comes to an end at 27-21.
The Mountain Hawks improve to 33-21 with the victory. Lehigh will now await the NCAA selection show to find out where it is headed for regional tournament competition. The sites and pairings will be announced Sunday night at 10 p.m. EDT on ESPNU, available on Service Electric cable dial position 174.
Photography © 2011, Mark Covelle. Used with Permission.