May 16, 2009
Gainesville, Fla.-- Lehigh advanced to the championship round of the NCAA Gainesville Regional with a pair of elimination-game wins at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium on Saturday. The Mountain Hawks opened the day with a convincing 9-0, five-inning win over Florida A&M before eliminating Texas A&M from regional play for the second time in four years with a 3-2 victory. With the victories, Lehigh moves to 38-17-1 overall the Mountain Hawks move on to face Florida, the tournament's overall No. 1 seed on Sunday, needing to upset the Gators twice to advance to next weekend's Super Regionals.
"We do well when our back is against the wall," said senior Lisa Sweeney, who earned her 23rd win of the season against the Aggies. "We're an incredible team and we had a lot of fun today. What we've been through this season has really helped us. The losing streak we went through made us a better team and made us more resilient. We battled back and it has been the perfect end to a great season."
Offensively, the Mountain Hawks were carried by their three freshmen starters, as centerfielder Audra Wood, first baseman Julie Fernandez and shortstop Jen Colquhoun combined to go 10-for-13 with six runs scored and seven runs batted in.
In the day's second game against Texas A&M, Lehigh, the designated home team raced to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning as senior Alisha Gonzales' bases-loaded ground ball to first was mishandled by Rhi Kliesing, allowing Wood to score from third. Colquhoun then followed with a single to right field, which scored Fernandez to put Lehigh up by two.
Colquhoun helped Lehigh add to its lead in the bottom of the third, when she delivered a two-out double off Kliesing, who came on in relief of Rebecca Arbino, that scored Fernandez to make it 3-0 Lehigh.
Texas A&M (32-22) battled back within a run with two runs in the top of the fifth inning. The Aggies placed runners on second and third with two outs and Kelsea Orsak laced a double down the left field line, that scored Holly Ridley and Bailey Schroeder.
Nursing a one-run lead, senior starting pitcher Lisa Sweeney raised her game in the final two innings. Sweeney struck out six in the complete-game effort, including four Aggies in the final two innings. In the seventh, Sweeney struck out Ridley and got Schroeder to ground out to third base. Alex Reynolds drew a walk to keep the game going, and pinch-runner Andrea Tovar stole second, but Sweeney caught Kara Rau looking with a 2-2 changeup to end the game and give the Mountain Hawks their third win in four all-time meetings against Texas A&M.
"Coming out we needed to win two games today to make it to the finals tomorrow, and that's obviously what we were trying to do," said Lehigh head coach Fran Troyan. "What makes me most proud is that they never gave up. Even when things got really dicey, and Texas A&M came back, we pulled through. I thought our kids did tremendous work in the sixth and seventh inning."
Sweeney allowed two runs on just three hits as she moves to 23-6 on the season. She walked just two Aggies to go along with her six strikeouts.
Earlier Saturday, Lehigh enjoyed its most lopsided win in NCAA tournament history, bolstered by a seven-run third inning.
Wood, Fernandez and Colquhoun combined to go 5-for-5 with five RBI against the Lady Rattlers. Fernandez put the Mountain Hawks on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first inning with an RBI double down the left field line that scored Wood.
The Mountain Hawks broke the game open with seven runs in the third inning, capitalizing on several Lady Rattler miscues in the process. Lehigh loaded the bases with nobody out and Wood slid home safely with her second run of the game as Sweeney reached on a fielder's choice. Gonzales was hit by a pitch, making it 3-0 Lehigh and Colquhoun followed with a rocket over the head of left fielder Tara Vincent, scoring two runs to extend the Mountain Hawks lead to 5-0.
With runners on second and third and one out, junior Tiffany Curtis flied out to right, and an errant throw by Rhianna Green allowed Gonzales to score Lehigh's sixth run. Wood then delivered her second hit of the inning, a line drive single to right, scoring two more runs to put Lehigh up by eight.
Lehigh added a ninth run in the bottom of the fourth on a fielder's choice off the bat of Alex Cueva, before Curtis retired the Lady Rattlers in the fifth to lock down the victory.
Curtis (14-6) earned her fifth shutout of the season holding Florida A&M to just a Rhianna Green leadoff single in five innings while walking four and striking out two. She also got help from catcher Lauren Eichblatt who gunned down two Lady Rattlers attempting to steal.
"It feels great to actually to advance to Sunday, which has been our goal the whole time," said Colquhoun. "We're just going to give it our all. We don't expect much, but we will bring it out on top if we can. We have nothing to lose. We're going to try to surprise these Gator fans."
Florida A&M's season comes to an end at 30-32.
The Mountain Hawks will face No. 1 seed Florida on Sunday, needing to defeat the top-ranked Gators twice to advance to the Super Regionals. Florida routed Florida A&M 12-0 in five innings on Friday before beating Texas A&M 7-1 in Saturday's first game. Sunday's first game begins at 1 p.m.