Feb. 6, 2014
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. - Lehigh will enter the 2014 softball season as the Patriot League favorite after the Mountain Hawks were picked for the top spot in the sport's preseason poll announced on Thursday.
Lehigh captured eight first-place votes to garner 66 points and edge League newcomer Boston University (63) and defending champion Army (55). The Terriers and Black Knights each received three first place votes from the softball head coaches and sports information directors who could not cast ballots for their own teams or student-athletes.
The rest of the poll order featured Colgate (40), Bucknell (36), Holy Cross (18) and Lafayette (16).
A pair of Mountain Hawk players were also recognized as the preseason player and pitcher of the year. Reigning Patriot League Player and Rookie of the Year Morgan Decker will enter the season as the Player of the Year and junior Emily Bausher the Pitcher of the Year.
Bausher and Decker were among three Lehigh players named to the Preseason All-League Team along with sophomore infielder Alexis Watanabe. Boston University had a trio of seniors recognized in outfielder Jayme Mask, shortstop Brittany Clendenny and catcher Amy Ekart.
Army, Bucknell and Holy Cross all had a pair of players chosen for the preseason team. The Black Knights were represented by senior outfielder Amanda Nguyen and sophomore infielder Kasey McCravey, the Bison by junior shortstop Cydnee Sanders and sophomore P/OF Amanda Fazio, and the Crusaders by sophomore outfielder Emily Jarvis and sophomore first baseman Colleen Ahern.
Colgate had the final player on the 13-member team in sophomore catcher Mariel Schlaefer.
Seven players on the preseason team were chosen for the 2013 First-Team All-Patriot League squad while another three were members of the second team. Decker was also the ECAC Co-Rookie of the Year and Nguyen an ECAC second team selection a year ago.
Lehigh has reached the championship game in each of the past three seasons under 2013 Patriot League Coach of the Year Fran Troyan. The Mountain Hawks return Decker, who was in the top five in numerous Patriot League offensive statistics, including leading the way in batting average (.415), home runs (9), RBI (46) and total bases (101) during her POY/ROY campaign. Bausher led all qualifying pitchers with a 1.60 ERA and was second in the league in strikeouts with 163 en route to a 15-7 record. Alex Watanabe was a second team All-Patriot League choice at second base and led the league in triples (7) and runs scored (48) while finishing fifth in batting average (.352) as a freshman.
Boston University returns a solid nucleus including outfielder Jayme Mask -- the 2013 America East Player of the Year. Mask hit .399 in the Terriers final season in the conference and also stole 37 bases. Fellow seniors Brittany Clendenny, Amy Ekart and Chelsea Kehr also return as does sophomore pitcher Lauren Hynes. Clendenny was an All America East first team performer at shortstop and Ekart was a stalwart behind the plate in starting every game at catcher for Boston University.
Army returns several key contributors from last year's championship team. Nguyen led the league in hits (85) and runs scored (48). She also led the league with 40 steals (in 44 attempts) and was second in batting average (.381) for the Black Knights. McCravey, a first team performer at third base, hit .324 as a freshman and was in the top five in hits (67), runs scored (44), RBI (36), doubles (12), home runs (5) and total bases (94).
Colgate qualified for the postseason in 2013 and looks to make another appearance behind Schlaefer and seniors Tera Vaughn and Haley Fleming. Schlaefer hit .301 for the Raiders and was second in the league with seven home runs. Vaughn, an outfielder, hit .292 a year ago and Fleming posted a solid .372 on base percentage while splitting time between shortstop and outfield.
Bucknell returns a quartet of players who earned first or second team All-Patriot honors last season. Sanders, a junior shortstop, hit .324 while appearing in 50 games and Fazio sported a 2.82 ERA and struck out 114 batters in helping the Bison reach the postseason. Juniors Kristen Zahn and Erin Cox were second-team All-Patriot League performers a year ago.
Holy Cross brings back Jarvis, an outfielder, and designated player Ahern as well as senior third baseman Alex Gustafson and sophomores Gennifer Durham and Sarah Kane. Jarvis was near the top of the league in batting average (.349) as a freshman and also stole 18 bases. Ahern and Gustafson hit .283 and .281, respectively, for the Crusaders. Durham is the top returning pitcher for Holy Cross and posted a 3.27 ERA as a freshman.
Jexx Varner takes over at Lafayette and will build on a nucleus that includes senior pitcher Melissa Robinson and juniors Kristen Berger and Kelly Lallis. Robinson struck out 101 batters a year ago and posted a 3.68 ERA in 32 games. Berger has started every game at shortstop in her first two seasons with the Leopards and look for the speedy Lallis to be a fixture in the outfield.
Bucknell will be the first Patriot League team slated to take the field this season as the Bison travel to Cleveland this weekend for four games, while the rest of the League squads start over the coming weeks. After an 18-game league season, the Patriot League Softball Tournament will feature the top four teams in a double-elimination format at the site of the top seed from May 8-10.
Patriot League Softball Preseason Poll
1. Lehigh, 66 points (8 first-place votes)
2. Boston University, 63 (3)
3. Army, 55 (3)
4. Colgate, 40
5. Bucknell, 36
6. Holy Cross, 18
7. Lafayette, 16
Preseason Player of the Year: Morgan Decker, Lehigh (So., INF)
Preseason Pitcher of the Year: Emily Bausher, Lehigh (Jr., P)
Amanda Nguyen, Army (Sr., OF)
Kasey McCravey, Army (So., INF)
Jayme Mask, Boston University (Sr., OF)
Brittany Clendenny, Boston University (Sr., SS)
Amy Ekart, Boston University (Sr., C)
Cydnee Sanders, Bucknell (Jr., SS/Util)
Amanda Fazio, Bucknell (So., P/OF)
Mariel Schlaefer, Colgate (So., C)
Emily Jarvis, Holy Cross (So., OF)
Colleen Ahern, Holy Cross (So., DP/1B)
Emily Bausher, Lehigh (Jr., P/OF)
Morgan Decker, Lehigh (So., INF)
Alexis Watanabe, Lehigh (So., INF)
*One extra player due to tie in the voting