BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Senior Lisa Sweeney went 3-for-3 with three RBI at the plate and struck out eight in a complete-game effort in the circle as Lehigh moved one step closer to its fifth Patriot League Tournament championship in the last six years with a 6-2 victory over Bucknell Friday at Kaufman Field. With the win the Mountain Hawks improve to 35-16-1 overall. Lehigh moves into Saturday morning’s championship round against rival Lafayette needing just one win to clinch the title, while the Leopards need to beat the Mountain Hawks twice.
One day after being held to just one hit in a win over Lafayette, Lehigh, the designated visiting team, scored a run on two hits in the top of the first inning. Freshman Audra Wood led off with an infield single and moved to second on a bunt by senior Whitney Lowe. With two outs, Sweeney helped her own cause with a single down the right field line that scored Wood to put Lehigh in front.
The Mountain Hawks added a second run in the second inning when sophomore Alex Cueva walked, moved to second on a sacrifice and then scored on a single to right center by Carly Potock.
“We honestly just got a little more comfortable today,” said Lehigh head coach Fran Troyan. “We saw some pitches that we liked early. Lisa got a big hit early and then Carly came up with a hit and I think getting a two-run lead like that loosened everybody up a little.”
Sweeney helped herself again in the fourth with a two-out, two-strike, bases-loaded single to right center that scored Wood and Lowe to make it 4-0 Mountain Hawks.
In the circle, Sweeney retired the first eight batters she faced and faced the minimum 13 batters through four and a third innings. Bucknell cut Lehigh’s lead to two with a fifth-inning rally as Kristin Frick drove in a pair of runs with a triple to left field.
Lehigh was able to extend its lead in the top of the fifth when senior Alisha Gonzales delivered another two-out, two-run, bases loaded single that scored Lowe and freshman Julie Fernandez to allow the Mountain Hawks to regain a two-run cushion.
Sweeney worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning when Elyse Colmenero popped out to Fernandez at first base, and worked around a two-out single in the seventh as Ashley Beans flied out to Wood in right center to end the game. The Patriot League Pitcher of the Year allowed two runs on seven hits while walking two and striking out eight on the way to her 21st win of the season (21-8).
Katie McDonald started for the Bison allowing six runs (four earned) on seven hits in five and two-thirds innings. She walked five and struck out two as she fell to 9-12 on the season.
Bucknell was then eliminated from the tournament in Friday’s third game as the Bison fell 4-1 to Lafayette. The Leopards remained alive with an 8-5 win over Colgate and will now face Lehigh in a rematch of last year’s championship series.
Due to the threat of inclement weather later in the day, first pitch for game six of the Patriot League Tournament on Saturday has been moved up to 11 a.m. If necessary, a second game will follow 30 minutes after the completion of the first. Saturday’s Lehigh-Lafayette tilt will be broadcast on WLVR-FM (91.3) as well as online at Lehighsports.com with pregame coverage beginning at 10:45.