Posted: 03/22/2013 | Last updated: March 22, 2013 at 12:34 AM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – After playing its first 17 games of the season on the road or at neutral sites, the Lehigh softball team opens up its home schedule this weekend with a four-game series against Niagara. The Mountain Hawks are hoping to get a boost from the friendly confines of Kaufman Field, where Lehigh won its last 15 games last season, including all three of its Patriot league tournament games.
Lehigh enters its home opening series looking to snap a three-game losing streak. The Mountain Hawks were swept in a doubleheader at Penn on Wednesday as the Quakers rallied to win game one in their last at-bat 8-7 before blanking Lehigh in the nightcap 2-0. Lehigh is now 7-9-1 on the season.
Senior catcher Liz Lucas delivered one of the bright spots for Lehigh as she became the Mountain Hawks’ career leader in home runs after hitting her 24th in game one on Wednesday. Lucas has overcome a slow start to up her average to .327 this season with four doubles and a team-leading 14 runs batted in. She is one of three Lehigh players with two home runs this season, joining sophomore Cassie Waggy and freshman Morgan Decker. The Mountain Hawks’ rookie third baseman, Decker leads Lehigh with a .359 batting average and five doubles, and is second behind Lucas with 11 RBI. Freshman Alexis Watanabe is second to Decker in batting, with a .340 average and leads Lehigh with 17 runs scored.
The Mountain Hawks’ pitching staff has been solid in the early season, but 25 errors have led to 27 of Lehigh’s 58 runs allowed to be unearned. Senior Becca Bliss and sophomore Emily Bausher own three wins apiece, with Bausher owning a 1.10 earned run average to Bliss’ 1.90. Bausher has also fanned 50 batters in 38.1 innings of work.
Niagara comes into the weekend series at 3-12 overall. The Purple Eagles have not played since March 8 after last weekend’s Hornet Invitational tournament was cancelled due to weather. Niagara owns wins over North Carolina Central, Bethune-Cookman and Sacred Heart, and has lost a game to Patriot League member Holy Cross.
Offensively, Amanda Werth is batting .333 to lead the Purple Eagles, while Becky Zill and Gabby Lustrinelli own six RBI apiece to lead the team.
Jennifer Sansano has thrown a team-high 47 innings in the circle and owns a 3-5 record and 2.68 ERA.
Ellie Chan is in her first season as Niagara’s head coach.
The Mountain Hawks and Purple Eagles last met in 2011 with Lehigh sweeping a four game series at Kaufman Field.
Following this weekend’s series, Lehigh will host Hofstra in a doubleheader on Wednesday before opening up Patriot League play at Bucknell March 30 and 31.
Lehigh and Niagara will play doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday, with first pitch for game one both days set for noon from Kaufman Field.