May 2, 2002
Center Valley, Pa. -- With a four-game sweep of Bucknell last weekend, Lehigh claimed its fourth-straight Patriot League softball regular-season title, which gives the Mountain Hawks the No. 1 seed in the upcoming League Championship and the right to host. The Patriot League Softball Championship will take place at LU's Kaufman Field, May 4-5. This marks the first time in PL history that the softball tournament has been held at a campus site.
Lehigh, which finished the regular-season with a 33-14 overall record and a 17-3 mark in League play, faces fourth-seed Holy Cross in the opening round of the tourney at 11 a.m. Saturday. The Mountain Hawks are completing their second-straight 30-win season and third since the inception of the Patriot League. 2001 NFCA Regional Coach of the Year Fran Troyan is in seventh season at the helm in Bethlehem and will be looking for his third career PL tournament crown.
The Mountain Hawks are led by 2001 Patriot League Tournament MVP, junior Jenny Bender (Flemington, N.J.), who tied for the League-lead with a .414 batting average. Bender is also LU's top pitcher, posting a 1.43 earned run average in 19 appearances this season. Junior shortstop Stephanie Digneo (Philadelphia, Pa.) is not only a solid defensive player, making only 16 errors in 206 chances, but she is also an offensive force with a .419 batting average, placing her in a first-place tie on the League chart.
Army (27-14-1, 14-4 PL) is the second seed and will meet #3 Colgate in the first game of the Championship at 9 a.m. Saturday. The Black Knights tout two of the best pitchers in the League in senior Shauna Evans (Cranesville, Pa.) and sophomore Ashlie Christian (Payette, Idaho). Evans leads the League with a 1.12 earned run average, while Christian is second with a 1.30 mark. Evans also tops the PL in strikeouts (139) and opponents batting average (.179).
As a team, the Black Knights are 23rd in the country in batting average with a .294 mark from the plate. Two-time Patriot League Player of the Year Nicki Robbins (Seminole, Fla.) leads the offensive charge with a .409 average, which ranks third in the PL and 30th in the country. The senior outfielder leads the League in doubles with 14 and walks with 27. Two other seniors, outfielder Bianca Brito (Edmond, Okla.) and third baseman Gina Fox (Watertown, N.Y.), have also been leaders at the plate with .364 and .339 batting averages, respectively.
Colgate enters the Championship as the third seed with a 28-18 overall record and a 12-6 PL mark. The Raiders 12 PL wins ties a school record, joining the 1999 squad that posted a 12-8 mark. Despite being in the midst of a youth movement, with only two seniors on the CU roster, the Raiders registered their fifth-straight 20-win season under head coach Vickie Sax and sixth in a row overall. Sophomore hurler Elena Isaac (Chandler, Ariz.) owns a 20-7 record this season with a 1.84 earned run average. Isaac is the first pitcher in Colgate history to collect 20 wins in a season and needs one more victory to tie Army's Colleen McCabe for the PL single-season record.
Freshman outfielder Dorothy Donaldson (Lakeland, Fla.) is Colgate's leading hitter with a .377 mark and has been tabbed the Rookie of the Week three times this season. Fellow freshman shortstop Natalie Rawson (Palmdale, Calif.), whose sister is junior first baseman Melissa, is a two-time Rookie of the Week honoree. The rookie duo is tied for 14th in the April 29 NCAA stats with 12 home runs, and accounts for 25 of the school-record 37 bombs hit by the Raiders this season.
Holy Cross (13-33, 8-12 PL) is making its fifth-straight appearance in the Patriot League Championship and is looking for its second title in five years. Sophomore shortstop Jean Connolly (Tewksbury, Mass.) has provided an offensive spark for the Crusaders this season. She leads the squad in hitting (.350), runs batted in (20), doubles (8), home runs (4), slugging percentage (.492) and total bases (63). Lizz Curll (Worcester, Mass.) has ripped 31 hits, including four doubles and three home runs, en route to a .284 batting average this season. The senior designated player has put runs up on the board, scoring 10 times and knocking in 14 others.
Freshman pitcher Michelle Greene (Woburn, Mass.) tossed an eight-inning no-hitter in HC's Patriot League finale against Lafayette, a 1-0 victory. In her rookie campaign, Green has registered a 2.29 earned run average with 57 strikeouts. Rounding out the Crusader pitching staff is sophomore Nicole Vitti (Stamford, Conn.). Vitti has been the workhorse of the rotation, tossing a team-best 101.1 innings en route to a 5-8 record with a 2.28 earned run average.