Posted: May 7, 2008
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Lehigh junior Lisa Sweeney captured two of the Patriot League’s major softball awards, announced Wednesday. On the heels of one of the finest single season efforts both at the plate and in the pitcher’s circle, Sweeney was named the league’s Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year, becoming the first player in league history to capture both awards.
“Lisa has always been a great pitcher for us, and that has always been her most important role for us,” said Lehigh head coach Fran Troyan. “She has been incredibly persistent about getting more offensive opportunities, and she has worked very hard on her hitting. For Lisa, all the hard work has paid off with one of the best seasons ever by a player in the Brown and White.”
Sweeney has been her usual dominant self in the pitcher’s circle, where she earns her third Pitcher of the Year award in as many seasons. The right-hander broke her own school and league single-season strikeout record with 260 so far this season. In addition, Sweeney boasts a league best 22-3 record and a 1.44 earned run average. She also tops the league in shutouts (seven) and opponent’s batting average (.185). Sweeney currently ranks fourth in the nation in strikeouts per seven innings with 10.7. Last month, Sweeney became the Lehigh and Patriot League career leader in both victories (67) and strikeouts (643).
A three-time first team All-League selection, Sweeney is the first Patriot League pitcher to win three straight Pitcher of the Year awards. Her selection marks the eighth time a Lehigh pitcher has earned the award.
At the plate, Sweeney has been equally impressive, as she doubles as the league’s leading hitter with a .407 average. She set a school single-season record with a league-leading 13 home runs, and also paces the league with 45 runs batted in. The only Mountain Hawk to play and start all 50 games this season, Sweeney tops the league in eight offensive categories, including hits (59), walks (35), total bases (107) and on-base and slugging percentage. Her 35 bases on balls set a Patriot League single-season record.
Sweeney was a second-team All-Patriot League selection as an outfielder, and also saw time at third base and as the designated player when not in the pitcher’s circle. She is the third Lehigh player to be named Patriot League Player of the Year, joining Kim Miller (1995 and 1996) and Kate Marvel (2007).
The league’s other two major awards went to Bucknell as freshman outfielder Lauren Fry was named Rookie of the Year, and Heather Rakosik was named Coach of the Year.
Lehigh looks to get back to the NCAA Regional tournament for the fourth time in five years as the Mountain Hawks welcome Army, Bucknell and Lafayette for the Patriot League tournament, which begins Thursday at Kaufman Field.
The Mountain Hawks won their tenth straight regular season title with a 14-6 Patriot League record, taking three-of-four from Colgate and leapfrogging Lafayette on the final day of the regular season. Lehigh posted a 9-3 record against the other three teams in the tournament and for the third straight year, the top seeded Mountain Hawks will open this double-elimination tournament against fourth seeded Army. Lehigh swept four games from the Black Knights earlier this season and is 7-0 versus Army over the last four Patriot League tournaments.
During the regular season Lehigh led the Patriot League in batting (.313 team avg.), pitching (2.34 team ERA) and fielding (.961). The Mountain Hawks have won the last ten regular season titles, and have won 15 overall. Lehigh has won the Patriot League tournament eight times, including a recent string of three in a row from 2004-2006. The Brown and White have made four NCAA Regional appearances, with the most recent coming in 2006.
History indicates that pitching is the key to success in college softball, but Lehigh has built a formidable offensive attack to complement the pitching tandem of Sweeney and sophomore Tiffany Curtis. The Mountain Hawks led by Sweeney and fellow first team All-League selections Marvel and Alisha Gonzales, rank 18th nationally with a .313 team batting average. The Mountain Hawks have also belted a school single-season record 25 home runs as a team, led by Sweeney’s school record 13 big flies. The previous school record had stood since 1994 when Lehigh hit 21 dingers.
Lehigh will open the Patriot League tournament against longtime nemesis Army. The Black Knights are 13-37 overall and earned the final spot in the tournament when Holy Cross swept a doubleheader from Colgate last week. Freshman Laura Baranek and sophomore Erin McClain are the only Black Knights batting over .300, while in the circle, senior Veronica Barth is expected to pitch the lion’s share of innings. Barth is 10-15 this year with a 3.54 ERA.
Thursday’s other first round game pits No. 2 Lafayette against No. 3 Bucknell. Both teams were 13-7 in league play but the Leopards will be designated home team since they split four games with Lehigh, while Bucknell dropped three of four.
Lafayette is the only other Patriot League team with an overall winning record at 24-22. The Leopards lead the league in home runs with 28, led by sophomores Kasey Karr and Christina Giambrone who have hit eight apiece. Karr is also the Leopards top pitcher, and should get help from Ali Henry.
Bucknell is arguably the league’s hottest team as the Bison enter the tournament winners of seven of their last eight. The Bison are 22-27 overall. Led by Rookie of the Year Lauren Fry, along with junior Kristin Frick and freshman Elyse Colmenero, Bucknell was the top hitting team during Patriot League play with a .344 average. Senior Christie Wiest is second to Lehigh’s Lisa Sweeney in wins and ERA and should do the brunt of the pitching for the Bison.
The Patriot League tournament gets underway Thursday when the host Mountain Hawks will face No. 4 Army in game one at 2 p.m., with No. 2 Lafayette battling No. 3 Bucknell in game two at 4 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.
All of Lehigh’s Patriot League tournament games will be broadcast live on 91.3 FM WLVR as well as online at Lehighsports.com, with streaming powered by Yahoo! Sports. Coverage for Thursday’s Lehigh-Army game begins at 1:45 with the pregame show, featuring the Fran Troyan Report.
2008 Patriot League Softball Championship Schedule
Thursday, May 8
Game 1: No. 1 Lehigh vs. No. 4 Army – 2 p.m.
Game 2: No. 2 Lafayette vs. No. 3 Bucknell – 4 p.m.
Friday, May 9
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 10
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)