BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Lehigh embarks on a short trip this weekend for a four-game series against the rival Lafayette Leopards. The weekend series marks the start of Patriot League play for both teams as the Mountain Hawks and Leopards will play doubleheaders Saturday and Sunday from Metzgar Fields Athletic Complex in Easton.
Due to the threat of inclement weather in Saturday's forecast, first pitch for game one of Saturday's doubleheader has been pushed back to 2 p.m. Sunday's twinbill is still scheduled for a noon start.
The Mountain Hawks swept a Wednesday doubleheader from Fordham, outscoring the Rams 11-4 to finish with a 6-2 record in their first home stand of the season. The biggest story of the series for Lehigh, which improved to 15-13 on the season, was the re-emergence of the Lehigh bats as the Mountain Hawks tallied 25 hits in the two games. It was a memorable day for senior Julie Fernandez as she broke the school record for career doubles. Fernandez smacked three doubles to put her atop the list with 52, three more than Stephanie Digneo ‘03. Fernandez was one of three Lehigh players, along with classmate Jen Colquhoun and junior Liz Lucas, with at least four hits on the day.
The upcoming series against Lafayette is a chance for Lehigh’s four seniors to cement their place among the Lehigh greats. Fernandez, Colquhoun, Audra Wood, and Tenley Halaquist have compiled a 13-1 career record against their rivals. The four seniors have been solid in every major statistical category this season and their leadership has been vital. As they ready for what might be their last series against the Leopards, the four want to make it a memorable one.
Fernandez has enjoyed a career year as she leads the team in batting average (.429), hits (39), and RBIs (20) among other categories.
“There’s always something special about competing against Lafayette and our intensity level definitely increases when we play them,” Fernandez said. “Playing well and winning this series can really do a lot to boost our confidence going into the other series.”
Wood, a team captain along with Fernandez, has scored the second-most runs (15) on the team while also registering 19 hits, which is fifth on the team. Wood’s defense this season has also been valuable as she is one of ten Lehigh players yet to commit a fielding error this season. Lehigh’s team defense has been impressive all season as nine players have a perfect fielding percentage.
“I expect the intensity level to be really high,” Wood said. “Not only is this our first Patriot League series this season but it’s against Lafayette so I know we will come out pumped and ready to play. This series is a great opportunity to set the tone for the rest of the season because it is such a long-standing rivalry.”
Colquhoun sits just behind Fernandez in most offensive categories while leading the team with six home runs and an impressive .717 slugging percentage. Colquhoun has scored more runs than any one on the team with 20.
“I’m excited because this is my last opportunity to help settle who reigns supreme in this rivalry,” Colquhoun said. “Pride is on the line and every person knows that every at-bat, pitch, and play could make or break the game. The opening weekend of Patriot League play is the most important. You start strong and roll with the momentum or you are playing catch-up for the rest of the year.”
Despite starting only 19 games, Halaquist is among the team leaders in batting average (.271) and RBIs (seven).
“We always want to add four more wins to the Lehigh side so at the end of the year we can say that Lehigh has the better athletic program,” Halaquist said. “Starting the league season with four wins under our belt by playing great softball would definitely get us rolling in the right direction.”
Lafayette has had a tough start to the season and comes into the weekend on a two-game losing streak. The Leopards are 4-12 overall. They opened their season at the Rebel Spring Games. Lafayette owns a doubleheader sweep of Manhattan along with wins over Cleveland State and Wagner this season. The Leopards were swept by Villanova in a doubleheader on Wednesday.
Lafayette has remained competitive in most games, thanks to a solid pitching staff led by Melissa Robinson, Her 3-7 record may not tell, but Robinson has posted an impressive 0.91 ERA while not allowing a home run in 10 appearances. Robinson has already pitched nine complete games this season, which is more than the combined total of Lafayette’s other pitchers. Her highlight of the season came in the win over Cleveland State. Robinson pitched all eight innings in surrendering only three earned runs.
Kristen Berger is one of three Lafayette players, along with Jordan Parson and Gwen Turner, batting over .300. Turner’s shining moment also came in the win over Cleveland State when she registered three hits and scored two of the team’s five runs. Turner leads the team in hits (16) and runs scored (11) this season.
Lehigh swept the series between the two teams last season, outscoring the Leopards 32-0 in the four games at Kaufman Field. In Lehigh’s last trip to Lafayette two years ago, the Mountain Hawks won three of four games.
Following the Lafayette series, the Mountain Hawks will visit Rider next Wednesday for a midweek doubleheader before returning home to face Bucknell April 7-8 in Lehigh’s league home opener.
Story by Antoine Williams ‘12