Posted: May 20, 2006
AMHERST, Mass. – Down two its final strike in the eighth inning, Lehigh mounted a furious rally, tying the game on a two-out two-strike double by Julie Sterrett, but the Mountain Hawks ultimately fell to host UMass 6-4 in 10 innings Saturday afternoon in a NCAA regional winner’s bracket game at the UMass Softball Complex. After a scoreless seven innings, UMass scored twice in the eighth and the Mountain Hawks answered. The Minutewomen then scored four times in the tenth, and though Lehigh threatened in the tenth, plating two unearned runs, Lehigh could not get any closer as the Brown and White falls to 42-13 on the year.
UMass (39-14) will advance to game six on Sunday, and is one win away from qualifying for next weekend’s super regionals.
The game began as a pitcher’s duel between two of the top freshman in the northeast. Lehigh freshman Lisa Sweeney allowed one hit through the first seven innings, while working out of jams in the first, fourth and sixth innings. On the other side, Minutewomen freshman Brandice Balschmiter was as equally impressive holding Lehigh without a hit through six innings.
The Mountain Hawks had a golden opportunity to win the game in the seventh inning. Sophomore Taryn Hanley singled through the left side to lead off the inning. Megan Conrad sacrificed pinch-runner Katherine Wegert to second base and a wild pitch moved Wegert to third with one out. Junior Whitney Schenbeck hit a ground ball towards second base and UMass second baseman Kristi Stefanoni fired a strike to the plate to nail Wegert and keep the game scoreless.
The Minutewomen finally scored two runs in the eighth inning, capitalizing on two hits, two walks and a sacrifice fly. Lehigh however, refused to go down quietly.
Kate Marvel led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a single, after two groundouts, Mary Wieder walked to put the tying run aboard. Sterrett came through with two strikes for the second time in as many days, with a double into the gap that scored Marvel easily and then Wieder, hustling all the way around in the tenth.
“Julie has been doing that kind of thing for us all year long,” said Sweeney. “That hit really lifted our team up and gave us confidence that we could compete with them.”
In the tenth inning, UMass took the lead on a sacrifice fly by Lauren Proctor, and then added three crucial insurance runs on a bases-clearing three-run double by Lesley Ferrara.
Again, Lehigh refused to go down without a fight. The Mountain Hawks loaded the bases on a pair of UMass errors and a hit by pitch. Hanley walked to score one run and then Conrad singled into the hole at shortstop to make it a two-run game with the tying and winning runs on. Balschmiter would bounce back though, striking out the final two batters to end the game and nab her 30th win of the season. Balschmiter tossed all 10 innings, allowing four runs (two unearned) and six hits while walking six and striking out a career-high 15.
Sweeney yielded six runs on five hits in ten innings of work as she falls to 26-5. The Patriot League Pitcher of the Year struck out eight and walked an uncharacteristic 10, including five free passes to UMass catcher KJ Kelley.
“My hat goes off to both pitchers,” said Lehigh head coach Fran Troyan. “It was a well pitched game and an incredibly exciting game, and I know this will be a growing and learning experience for our team.”
The loss forces Lehigh into an elimination game against the winner of game four between Texas A&M and Albany, which got underway at 3:45 pm. The third game of the day, an elimination game between Lehigh and the survivor of the Aggies and Great Danes will begin at approximately 6:15 pm from the UMass Softball Complex. Audio coverage of that game will be available on 91.3 FM WLVR and online at lehighsports.com with streaming powered by Yahoo! Sports.