Bethlehem, PA – Lehigh had been down before in the 2005 Patriot League softball tournament. After dropping their first tournament game to Bucknell, the Mountain Hawks battled back through the losers’ bracket to reach the championship round. On Thursday the Brown and White completed the comeback in seventh and deciding game of the tournament, erasing a 1-0 deficit with four runs in the final three innings to beat Army 4-1 at Kaufman Field. The win propels Lehigh to its second straight Patriot League tournament crown and third in the last five seasons. At 39-8 on the season, the Mountain Hawks will now move on to the NCAA regional tournament.
The seventh and deciding game began on Monday, but rain forced its suspension with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning with Army leading 1-0. The game resumed on Thursday from that point and after Emily Ling retired Nikki Posey to end the fourth the Mountain Hawk bats went to work in the fifth.
Katherine Wegert led things off with a single, and after a groundout, freshman Taryn Hanley stepped up a ripped a double to left field scoring Wegert with the tying run. Jess Young then popped out and Mary Wieder walked sending up Whitney Schenbeck with two outs. The sophomore delivered, continuing a superb tournament with a two-run double to left, which put Lehigh on top 3-1.
The Mountain Hawks tacked on another run in the sixth. With two outs and a runner on third Hanley grounded out to the catcher, but it was later ruled that she fouled it off her foot. The freshman made the most of her opportunity lacing a single up the middle to plate Kate Arico with Lehigh’s fourth run.
The four runs would be plenty of support for Ling who was masterful in the pitching circle. For the game Ling scattered seven hits, walking one and striking out six to pick up her 19th victory of the season. The senior right-hander was named Patriot League Tournament Most Valuable Player after going 3-0 with a 0.67 ERA and 20 strikeouts.
Ling retired the final five batters she faced and when Lindsay March flied out to centerfielder Kate Marvel, Lehigh was penciled in for its second straight tournament appearance.
“I’m incredibly proud of how our group played,” said head coach Fran Troyan. “We were able to keep our composure, relax and enjoy the moment.”
Troyan also praised the team for coming through when it mattered most.
“Emily (Ling) did a great job for us today and Taryn (Hanley) has been clutch all year for us. Her double really kind of got everyone to relax, Troyan said. “Whitney (Schenbeck) came up and her double put us ahead. It was tremendous; it was a total team effort and I’m very proud.”
After the game Ling praised her teammates for their resiliency and their desire to accomplish the task at hand
“Talking to the girls before the game, we just had a feeling we were going to win,” Ling said. "Yesterday we just kind of envisioned everything batter-by-batter and today we just came out and did it.”
Veronica Barth was saddled with the loss for the Black Knights, falling to 9-6 on the season. Veronica Lauzon wrapped up an outstanding tournament and season going 2-for-2 in the deciding game.
Lehigh will now await word on where it will be headed for the NCAA regionals. The NCAA will announce the 16 regional sites and pairings on Sunday, May 15 between 7:30 and 8:00 pm live on ESPNEWS. Regional play will get underway beginning Friday, May 20 at a date and time to be determined.
Photos (c) 2005, Chris Christian/Lehigh Athletics.