BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh softball team seeks its second straight Patriot League tournament title and sixth in the last eight years as the Mountain Hawks host the 2012 Patriot League tournament at Kaufman Field. With a 37-17 overall record and 18-2 league mark, the Mountain Hawks won their 17th Patriot League regular season title and will host the tournament for the first time since 2009 as Lehigh seeks a 12th tournament title and eighth NCAA Regional appearance.
Lehigh outscored its opponents 138-20 in Patriot League games and will open the double-elimination tournament against No. 4 seed and rival Lafayette. The rest of the field features No. 2 seed Army and No. 3 seed Colgate. The winner of the Patriot League tournament earns an automatic berth to the NCAA Regional tournament.
Lehigh placed a league-best nine student-athletes on the All-Patriot League teams. Senior Jen Colquhoun led the way for the Mountain Hawks, earning All-Patriot League honors for the fourth year, while also garnering two major awards. Colquhoun was unanimously named Player of the Year by the league’s head coaches and was voted Scholar-Athlete of the Year by the league’s sports information directors for the third straight year. Head coach Fran Troyan was named Coach of the Year for the fourth time in his career and first time since 2007. Seven of Lehigh’s nine All-League selections earned first team honors, led by senior Julie Fernandez, who became just the ninth four-time first-team All-League selection in Patriot League softball history.
The Mountain Hawks have been exceptionally good at Kaufman Field this season, where they own a 16-2 record. Lehigh has won 12 straight home games, good for the fourth-longest home winning streak in the country, and has outscored its opponents 91-14 in the 18 games. Junior pitcher Becca Bliss has been especially tough with a 9-0 record and 0.38 ERA in 56 innings at home.
Lehigh and Lafayette will open the tournament in Thursday’s first game. The Mountain Hawks swept a four-game series from the Leopards in Easton during the first weekend of league play. Lehigh outscored Lafayette 35-4 in the four-game sweep but only one of the four games ended prematurely due to the eight run rule. Colquhoun and classmate Audra Wood each went 7-for-12 (.583) in the four games against Lafayette. Wood scored eight runs in the series, while Colquhoun went off for three home runs and 11 RBI in the four-games, highlighted by a two home run (including a grand slam), seven RBI effort in the second game of a doubleheader on March 31.
Fernandez leads the Patriot League and ranks tenth nationally in batting average at .445 and needs just one more hit to set the Lehigh and Patriot League career record. Colquhoun also boasts an impressive .445 batting average and is the league’s top run producer with 13 home runs and 47 RBI.
In the pitcher’s circle, Lehigh features the formidable 1-2 punch of junior Becca Bliss and freshman Emily Bausher. Bliss leads the team with 17 wins and is 7-0 with a save and an ERA of 0.16 in her last eight appearances, while Bausher tops the league with a 1.67 ERA and has 183 strikeouts. Bausher threw 11 shutout innings against the Leopards, striking out 18 earlier this season, while Bliss added a pair of complete-game wins.
Lafayette makes its first tournament appearance since 2009 when the Leopards lost to Lehigh in the championship round. The Leopards are 13-38 overall and finished 7-13 in league play. Lafayette last played on May 1, dropping a doubleheader at Rutgers, and clinched the fourth and final tournament berth with a doubleheader split versus Bucknell on April 29.
Gwen Turner leads the Leopards at the plate with a .367 batting average, while Lauren Murphy has a team-best 23 RBI. Second-team All-Patriot League selection Melissa Robinson anchors the pitching staff with a 12-22 record and 2.61 ERA in 219.2 innings of work.
Lehigh leads the all-time series versus Lafayette 79-22, which includes a 7-1 record in the Patriot League Tournament. Lehigh and Lafayette met in the championship round of Patriot League tournaments in 2008 and 2009. The Mountain Hawks’ senior class is 17-1 versus the Leopards with the lone loss coming in 2010.
Thursday’s other first round game pits No. 2 seed Army against No. 3 Colgate. Army is 35-19 overall and finished at 14-6 in the league while Colgate is 19-26 overall and 12-8 in league games. The Raiders won three of four from the Black Knights April 7-8 in Hamilton, N.Y.
The Patriot League tournament gets underway Thursday when the Mountain Hawks will face Lafayette in game one at noon, with Army battling Colgate in game two at 2:30 p.m.
Games three, four and five are slated for Friday, beginning at 11 a.m., with the winner’s bracket game between the winners of Thursday’s contests. The championship round featuring game six and, if necessary, game seven is set for noon on Saturday.
Live audio coverage of the Patriot League softball tournament will be available online through Patriot League All-Access.
2012 Patriot League Softball Championship Schedule
Thursday, May 10
Game 1: No. 1 Lehigh vs. No. 4 Lafayette – 12 p.m.
Game 2: No. 2 Army vs. No. 3 Colgate – 2:30 p.m.
Friday, May 11
Game 3: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 – 11 a.m.
Game 4: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 – 1:30 p.m.
Game 5: Winner Game 4 vs. Loser Game 3 – 4 p.m.
Saturday, May 12
Game 6: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5 – 12 p.m.
Game 7: Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 6 – 2:30 p.m. (if necessary)