The Lehigh softball team has a new softball field, photographed on Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015. Lehigh has relocated the softball game and practice venue to a space that is to the west of the soccer field and directly north of the Cundey Varsity House. (Nan He/B&W photo)

Softball ready for play on a new field

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As spring approaches, Lehigh’s softball team is preparing for its first game against George Mason University in the Patriot Classic on Friday. Further, the team awaits its first practice on a new and improved softball field.

“I think we’re all excited to get out on the new field,” junior third baseman Morgan Decker said.

Decker said the softball team’s old field, Kaufman Field, was built through a donation by Rob Kaufman. Kaufman graduated from Lehigh in 1968, and has donated to Lehigh athletics for five consecutive years. He is also a member of the Asa Packer Society.

“Kaufman Field has been around for a long time,” Decker said. “Though the field itself was great, it didn’t have any dugouts or a proper press box. Kaufman Field has been such a huge part of Lehigh softball history, but I think it was just time for our team and our new field to get a little upgrade. I just know we all can’t wait to start our new season on a new field.”

Coach Fran Troyan said the plans for the new field have been in the works for many years.

“The athletic department received some generous donations to make it a reality,” Troyan said. “The field is being built to help ensure a great student-athlete experience for our softball student-athletes.”

According to Lehigh Sports’ “Softball Complex Project Scope,” the new field is located in the space just west of the soccer field and north of the Cundey Varsity House. It is also near the Ulrich Sports Complex and parking lot.

“The new location of the field will help with the crowd turnout and subsequently our performance,” senior pitcher/outfielder Emily Bauscher said. “Nothing is better than playing in front of a bunch of Lehigh softball supporters.”

Bauscher said that being so close to the entrance of the athletic complex not only helps with turnout but also with access to the Varsity House locker room, lifting facility and sports medicine staff.

The old field was located near the Ben Franklin and Manufacturers Resource Center. The complex project scope also claimed the old softball field was “the poorest facility in the Patriot League and the poorest collegiate softball facility in the Lehigh Valley.”

“I am extremely excited to play on the new field this year,” catcher Brandi Hawkins said. “I’m a senior, so it’s really special for me to get to play my final season on this brand new field. My teammates and I have all watched the progress every day for months as we drive to practice, so getting to actually practice and play on this new field will be something none of us will forget.”

The new field will host its first two softball games March 18, as the University of Pennsylvania Quakers travel to challenge the Mountain Hawks in a double-header. Until then, the team will participate only in games away from home.

The first event on its schedule, the Tar Heel Invitational, was supposed to take place last weekend. However, it was canceled due to inclement weather. The team is still slated to take part in the Patriot Classic in Fairfax, Virginia; the Rebel Spring Games in Winter Haven, Florida; and the USF Under Armour Invitational in Clearwater, Florida.

Hawkins talked about the old field, where she had played during the previous three years. She said that although the old field was pretty big, it had outdated fences, cages and, as Decker said, the field was lacking sturdy dugouts.

“Even though it wasn’t the nicest field in the world,” Hawkins said, “it was still a place where we all could lace up our cleats and play the game we love, and for that I will always be thankful for it.”

Kaufman field, however, didn’t prevent Lehigh from a winning season in 2014. Last spring, the team advanced to the Patriot League Tournament, had an overall record of 30-20 and a conference record of 15-3.

“We are one of the most successful programs in the Lehigh Athletics Department,” Hawkins said. “So it seemed only fitting that we would eventually update our facilities.”

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