BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh softball team had to wait an extra week, but the Mountain Hawks will finally get to open their 2013 season Friday with two games at the Towson Invitational in Towson, Md. The two-time defending Patriot League Champions will play five games in three days, taking on Columbia, Iona and the host Tigers at the Tiger Softball Complex.
The Mountain Hawks were originally scheduled to open up last weekend at the ECU Pirate Invitational, but Lehigh did not make the trip due to anticipated inclement weather in North Carolina.
Lehigh returns six All-Patriot League performers from last year’s team, which went 40-19 and claimed the Mountain Hawks’ seventh Patriot League title in the last nine years.
Senior catcher Liz Lucas will be relied upon to lead the Mountain Hawks both at the plate and behind it. Lucas was a first team All-Region selection a year ago and was recently named the Patriot League Preseason Player of the Year after batting .348 as a junior with six home runs and 40 runs batted in. The Colorado native enters her senior season with 22 home runs, putting her one behind Lisa Sweeney ’09 for the Lehigh career record.
Veterans Rosie Roessel and Kristen Mitchell return in center and right field, while 18th-year head coach Fran Troyan will be relying on a number of younger players as part of an infield which lost three starters to graduation.
In the pitcher’s circle, Lehigh will rely heavily on senior Becca Bliss and sophomore Emily Bausher who last year teamed to form the top pitching tandem in the Patriot League. Bliss led Lehigh with 19 victories and was especially tough against Patriot League opponents. She enters 2013 as the league’s Preseason Pitcher of the Year. Bausher led the league in ERA (1.78) a year ago and paced the Mountain Hawks’ pitching staff with 195 strikeouts in 168.2 innings of work.
Lehigh will open its season Friday at 12:45 p.m. when the Mountain Hawks face Columbia. The Brown and White will then take on host Towson at 3 p.m.
Columbia will also be opening its season this weekend as the Lions will face Iona Friday at 10:30 a.m. prior to taking on the Mountain Hawks. Friday’s game will be the first of five scheduled games between Lehigh and Columbia. The teams will meet Saturday at 3 p.m., then again at the Rebel Spring Games in Florida March 15, and will also play a doubleheader at Kaufman Field in late April.
The Lions were 12-33 a season ago. Lehigh and Columbia have had doubleheaders cancelled due to weather and other factors in each of the last two seasons. The Mountain Hawks lead the series 2-1 with the last meeting a 7-3 Lehigh win in the 2001 season-opener.
The host Towson Tigers have played the most games of any team in the field as they come in at 6-9. Last weekend Towson went 2-3 at the FAU Strike Out Cancer Tournament in Florida, posting wins over Northern Illinois and Providence. The Tigers opened the season with four straight wins, then lost eight straight games before taking two of their next three.
Delanie Dunham has started all 15 games for Towson, and is batting .350 with a home run and a team-leading nine RBI. Three Tiger pitchers have thrown 20-plus innings already this season. Katie Lingmai leads the way with a 3-4 record, 4.72 ERA and 43 strikeouts. Towson owns a 16-3 lead in the all-time series and won the most recent meeting 4-1 in 2011.
Lehigh will face Iona Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and will wrap-up tournament play against the Gaels Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Iona brings a 2-6 record into this weekend’s action. The Gaels went 1-2 last weekend at the rain-shortened Carolina Classic in Chapel Hill, N.C., defeating George Washington 5-1 before losing to Iowa State and the host Tar Heels. The three-time defending MAAC Champions, Iona played in the Berkeley, California Regional last year. Eileen McCann is off to a fast start offensively for the Gaels with seven hits, two home runs and six RBI. Four pitchers have seen time in the circle, with Christine Costello and Carly Argyle figuring to get the lion’s share of the work.
The Mountain Hawks are 9-0 all-time versus Iona with the teams last having met back in 2007.