May 12, 2012
Patriot League Softball Championship Central
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Lehigh concluded the best pitching performance in the history of the Patriot League Softball Tournament by defeating Army 2-0 on Saturday at Kaufman Field to repeat as League champion and win its 12th tournament title overall.
The Mountain Hawks (40-17) became the first team in the event that did not allow a run for the entire tournament. Junior pitcher Rebecca Bliss led the way, as she shut out Army (37-21) on Friday and again on Saturday to earn the Patriot League Tournament Most Valuable Player award. Bliss became just the third pitcher in the history of the tournament that went at least 14 innings and did not give up a run. She also became only the third student-athlete to win multiple Patriot League Tournament MVP awards after claiming the honor last season.
Lehigh's title is its fourth in the past five seasons, and seventh in the last nine years. The Mountain Hawks earn the Patriot League's automatic bid to the NCAA Softball Regionals, with the selections announced on Sunday at 10 p.m. on ESPNU.
After defeating Lafayette 2-0 on Thursday with Emily Bausher in the circle and shutting out Army 4-0 behind Bliss on Friday, Lehigh turned to its junior first-team All-Patriot League pitcher to complete the title run on Saturday. Bliss was outstanding from start to finish, allowing only two hits and one walk with five strikeouts to record the shutout victory.
The game remained scoreless through four innings, as Army freshman pitcher Morgan Lashley matched her counterpart on the hill. Lehigh finally broke the tie in the bottom of the fifth inning as the 7-8-9 hitters in the order came through. Emma Capetz led off with a single, and moved to second on a sacrifice by Tenley Halaquist. Kristen Mitchell followed with a double to left field to plate Capetz with the first run of the game for the Mountain Hawks.
Lehigh added insurance in the sixth. Liz Lucas doubled to put runners on second and third with one out, and Cassie Waggy followed with a sacrifice fly to score pinch-runner Kristin Taft and give Lehigh a 2-0 lead.
Army threatened in the seventh, with an error and a walk putting runners on first and second with two out. With the tying runs on base, Bliss struck out Clara Navarro looking to send Lehigh to another Patriot League Softball title.
Five different players had a hit for the Mountain Hawks, with Capetz and Mitchell adding a run and RBI, respectively, after their knocks in the fifth inning.
Lashley had a strong outing for the Black Knights, who were playing in the championship round of the Patriot League Softball Tournament for the first time since 2006. The freshman standout went all six innings and allowed two runs while scattering five hits and two walks with a strikeout.
Bliss joined a pair of Lehigh players who also won multiple Patriot League Tournament MVP honors. Meri Wall claimed the honor in 1993 and 1994, while Lisa Sweeney won it in 2006, 2008 and 2009. Bliss also entered a group of three who pitched at least 14 innings without giving up a run in the Patriot League Tournament, as she joined the company of Lehigh's Jill Lewis (1997) and Colgate's Elena Isaac (2003).
The following players made the Patriot League Softball All-Tournament Team.
Lehigh junior pitcher Rebecca Bliss (MVP)
Lehigh senior first baseman Julie Fernandez
Lehigh junior catcher Liz Lucas
Lehigh junior outfielder Kristen Mitchell
Army senior catcher Rachael Duval
Army freshman pitcher Morgan Lashley
Army senior first baseman Alexis AuBuchon
Lafayette sophomore pitcher Melissa Robinson
Lafayette freshman shortstop Kristen Berger
Colgate senior third baseman Stephanie Hartquist
Colgate junior pitcher Courtney O'Connell
For box scores, recpas and links to audio broadcasts from the 2012 Patriot League Softball Tournament, go to Patriot League Softball Championship Central