Posted: May 13, 2006
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Lehigh used another dominant pitching performance from freshman Lisa Sweeney, and three second inning runs proved to be more than enough as the top seeded Mountain Hawks captured their third straight Patriot League title with a 5-1 win over Army in the 2006 Patriot League championship game at Kaufman Field on Saturday afternoon. The victory sends the Mountain Hawks (41-12) back to the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season. Army wraps up its season with an 18-37 record.
Sweeney, who had pitched a perfect game against the Black Knights in the first game on Friday, continued to dominate early, setting down the first 16 she faced before Army finally scratched out a hit in the bottom half of the sixth. Thanks to a five-out save in game two Friday, Sweeney worked 14 perfect innings before allowing a base runner.
The Mountain Hawks gave Sweeney all the support she’d need with a three-run top of the second. After Sweeney singled to start the inning, first baseman Taryn Hanley executed a perfect sacrifice bunt to move the go-ahead run into scoring position. The next batter, second baseman Megan Conrad, tripled home Sweeney to give Lehigh a 1-0 lead. With Conrad at third, Lehigh left fielder Whitney Schenbeck ripped a triple of her own down the right field line, to make the score 2-0. Third baseman Heather Hamasaki singled home Schenbeck, and Sweeney had more than enough runs to work with.
“We knew that we were in good shape after we scored those runs,” Conrad said on the audio broadcast following the win. “With Lisa or with Kate [Arico] pitching this weekend, we knew we wouldn’t have to score a lot.”
However, with Conrad at second base and one out in the fourth, the Mountain Hawks added to their lead as center fielder Kate Marvel tripled home the fourth run in the game. A Julie Sterrett RBI double brought home catcher Mary Wieder with the game’s final run in the top of the seventh.
After pitching a perfect game against the Black Knights and recording five straight outs in a save situation vs. Lafayette Friday, Sweeney finally allowed a base runner as Army center fielder Nikki Posey singled to right field with one out in the sixth. The Black Knights did scratch a run on three hits in the bottom of the seventh, to make the score 5-1.
For the tournament, Sweeney (26-4) allowed one run and four hits in 15.2 innings of work. She struck out 18 and did not walk a batter in being named the Patriot League tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Army’s Veronica Barth allowed four earned runs in seven innings and was saddled with the loss, dropping her record to 8-19.
Lehigh’s 41 wins match a Patriot League single season record, established by the 2005 Mountain Hawks.
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 on Sunday afternoon at 3:30 pm EDT on ESPNEWS, available on Service Electric cable dial position 27.
No matter where the Mountain Hawks play next week, all the action can be heard live on Lehigh’s web site at Lehighsports.com, with the tandem of Steve Lomangino and Jeff Tourial calling the action.
Photos (c) 2006, Chris Christian/Lehigh Athletics.