BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Senior Julie Fernandez went 3-for-4 with two RBI and junior Becca Bliss fired a four-hit shutout as Lehigh advanced to the championship round of the Patriot League Tournament with a 4-0 win over Army Friday in a winner’s bracket game at Kaufman Field. The Mountain Hawks will face the Black Knights on Saturday needing just one win to claim their second straight tournament title.
Lehigh scored three runs in the first inning off Army ace Morgan Lashley, allowing Bliss to take care of the rest, with her ninth shutout victory of the season.
“When our little guys get on, good things happen,” explained Lehigh head coach Fran Troyan. “They did a good job getting on today. We caught a couple of breaks there. We didn’t hit the ball real hard but sometimes you don’t have to. We had a 3-0 lead with Becca out there and thought we had a great shot. She pitched a great game and we were able to stay in command the whole way.”
The Mountain Hawks were the designated visiting team on their home field and junior Rosie Roessel led off the game with a bloop single down the left field line. After a strikeout, Lashley walked senior Jen Colquhoun and Fernandez followed with a single up the middle, scoring Roessel to put Lehigh in front 1-0. Following a walk to junior Liz Lucas, freshman Cassie Waggy singled to center, scoring Colquhoun and an errant throw by Black Knight centerfielder Reanna Johnson allowed Fernandez to score to make it 3-0 Lehigh.
Bliss continued her strong efforts both at home and against Patriot League opponents, allowing four hits and a walk in seven innings, while striking out four to improve to 18-6 on the season.
Clara Navarro picked up Army’s first hit with a one-out double in the third inning, but was stranded at second base. In the fourth inning, Marina Northup led off with a single but was erased when Alexis AuBuchon lined into a double play started by freshman second baseman Emma Capetz.
Army’s biggest threat came out with two outs in the fifth as Rachael Duval tripled to right center and then Navarro was hit by a pitch putting runners on the corners, but Bliss got April Ortenzo to fly out to right field to end the frame.
Lehigh added a key insurance run in the top of the seventh as Roessel led off with a single through the right side, moved to second on a walk, took third on a Colquhoun sacrifice bunt, and then scored on a single to left center by Fernandez.
“When she gets on base she makes things happen,” Troyan said of his junior centerfielder. “She’s one of the fastest players in the league. She stole a base and scored a couple of runs today and she really sets the table for us offensively.”
With three hits, Fernandez took over the Patriot League lead in batting at .451 and her two RBI tied her with Colquhoun for the team and league lead at 48.
The Black Knights bounced back from the early loss to Lehigh to defeat Lafayette 7-0 in Friday’s final game, setting up a rematch in the championship round. The Mountain Hawks need just one win to claim their 12th Patriot League Tournament title and seventh in the last nine years, while Army must win twice on Saturday to win the title.
Saturday’s first game will get underway at noon from Kaufman Field with a second game, if necessary, to follow at approximately 2:30. Streaming audio for Saturday’s action will be available from two outlets: via Patriot League All-Access and also at Lehighsports.com through Lehigh’s partnership with Stretch Internet.