WEST POINT, N.Y. – It required a pair of seventh-inning home runs but the Lehigh softball team clinched the Patriot League regular season championship after sweeping a doubleheader from Army Sunday at the Army Softball Complex. Senior Julie Fernandez broke a 2-2 tie with a solo shot to lift Lehigh to a 3-2 win in the opener, while junior Liz Lucas’ three-run blast propelled the Mountain Hawks to a 5-4 win in the nightcap.
Needing just one win to clinch the league’s regular season title, the Mountain Hawks took two and wrap-up the regular season at 37-17 overall and 18-2 in the league. Army falls to 34-18, 14-6 in league games.
Fernandez was 3-for-5 in the doubleheader with three RBI as she tied the Lehigh and Patriot League record with her 257th career hit. She currently shares the mark with Stephanie Digneo ’03.
Both teams scored first inning runs in game one as freshman Cassie Waggy singled home senior Audra Wood for the Mountain Hawks and then April Ortenzo scored from second on a Becca Bliss throwing error.
A second Mountain Hawk error allowed Army to take a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth but Lehigh answered in the fifth as a bases-loaded walk to Lucas tied the game at two. The Mountain Hawks had the bases loaded with one out but Army’s Morgan Lashley kept Lehigh off the board getting a force out at home and then a strikeout to avoid any further damage.
Fernandez stepped to the plate with two outs in the seventh and gave the Mountain Hawks the lead with an opposite-field shot off the base off the scoreboard in left. It was Fernandez’s fourth home run of the season.
Bliss then struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh to clinch Lehigh’s 17th Patriot League regular season title in softball. She allowed just two unearned runs on five hits in a complete game effort, walking two and striking out seven as she improves to 17-6 on the season.
Fernandez propelled Lehigh to the early game two lead as she followed two straight hits with an RBI single to left that scored junior Rosie Roessel.
Army tied the game in the bottom of the second on a solo home run by Alexis AuBuchon, but Fernandez answered with another RBI single in the third, scoring Roessel to put Lehigh back in front 2-1.
The Black Knights used another long ball to take their first lead of the nightcap, as Reanna Johnson belted a two-run shot to left off freshman Emily Bausher in the fourth.
In the sixth, Army tacked on an insurance run as Ali Cleinmark brought home Johnson with a two-out single to right field off of sophomore Ashley Quigley.
Lehigh once again put together a seventh-inning rally to take the lead. Wood led off with a single, her third hit of the nightcap, and moved to second on an error. Army had replaced Lashley with Jules Steurer, but brought her back in after Wood reached base. After an intentional walk to Fernandez, Lucas drilled a three-run home run to left, her fifth of the year, to put the Mountain Hawks in front.
Bliss then came out of the bullpen to retire the Black Knights in order and earn her second save of the season. Quigley earned the win (4-1) after allowing one run in one inning of work. Bausher went the first five allowing three runs on four hits, walking two and striking out five.
The Mountain Hawks will host the Patriot League tournament beginning Thursday May 10 at Kaufman Field. Lehigh will face No. 4 seed Lafayette in one opening round game while No. 2 Army will face No. 3 Colgate will meet in the other. Game times at this moment are still to be determined.