Players on the softball team observe and cheer on their teammates during a drill at practice on Thursday, April 30, 2015. They waited to be rotated into the drill to prepare the team for their upcoming Patriot League Tournament in May. (Morgan Citron/B&W Photo)

Softball poised for Patriot League Tournament as top-seed

Senior R/R Brandi Hawkins throws the ball from home plate after catching it during a drill run at practice on Thursday, April 30, 2015. The practice focused on improving certain skills in order for the team to play their best in their upcoming Patriot League Tournament in May. (Morgan Citron/B&W Photo)

Senior catcher Brandi Hawkins throws the ball from home plate after catching it during a drill run at practice on Thursday, April 30, 2015. The practice focused on improving certain skills in order for the team to play their best in their upcoming Patriot League Tournament in May. (Morgan Citron/B&W Photo)

For the fourth season in a row, Lehigh’s softball team will enter the Patriot League Tournament as the top seed and with the home field advantage.

The team clinched the regular season title and top seed in the 2015 Patriot League Tournament after winning two of three games last weekend against Army. The team boasts a conference record of 16-2 and an impressive overall record of 36-7.

Army, Bucknell University and Colgate University will join Lehigh in the tournament where the champion will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

The team will try to avenge its disappointing performance in last year’s Patriot League tournament. It was able to secure home field advantage in 2014, but was quickly ousted when it lost to Army and then Bucknell at the team’s former facility, Kaufman Field. In an interesting storyline, both the Black Knights and the Crusaders will once again be potential obstacles in Lehigh’s quest for the championship in 2015.

The team closed out Patriot League play this past weekend with a four-game series against Colgate, sweeping Saturday’s doubleheader and winning the third game Sunday, 8-1.

The tournament will be played at the team’s brand new Leadership Park, which is the first stadium fans see as they enter Lehigh’s Goodman Campus. The Mountain Hawks played the first-ever game at their new field on April 22, beating Villanova 7-1.

“It’s unbelievable playing on the new field,” sophomore utility player Vicky Lattanzio said. “It definitely gives us more excitement and energy, especially because we’ll be hosting the Patriot League Tournament next week on it. We’re pumped to be a part of some great things that will happen at Leadership Park.”

Senior pitcher Emily Bausher has led the way for the Mountain Hawks this season with her consistent pitching and hitting. She recently has tied Lehigh alumna Lisa Sweeney, ’06, with six Patriot League Pitcher of the Week awards in a single season.

Bausher has posted a 1.28 ERA and has 18-5 record with 178 strikeouts in 147.2 innings. The senior is also hitting .292 in 72 at bats this season.

“A Patriot League championship would be indescribable,” Bausher said. “We’ve been chasing another championship since we won my freshman year and have come so close the past two years.. To go out on a win and get the title would be amazing. I just want to play as many games as I can with this special team.”

Freshman outfielder Nicole Yozzo has played a huge role in Lehigh’s success in her first year with the program. In her first weekend of collegiate softball, Yozzo went 12-for-14 in the lead-off spot for the Mountain Hawks. She has continued to get on base for Lehigh hitting .376 with an on-base-percentage of .429.

“The team was really supportive of the freshmen right away,” Yozzo said. “The older girls did a great job showing us the ropes and making sure we knew that they believed we could, and expected us to be successful, even as freshmen.”

Lehigh has had several other key contributors throughout the season, which include junior infielders Alexis Watanabe and Morgan Decker. The two are hitting .462 and .328, respectively, with 39 runs and 61 RBI combined. Decker has hit 12 doubles and four home runs so far this season. 

In Saturday’s game, junior infielder/outfielder Jessica Calvini emerged as another threat at the plate, hitting two home runs and driving in six runs for Lehigh. She is hitting .323 with 31 RBI and a team-leading five home runs.

Sophomore pitcher Christine Campbell has complemented Bausher well in the circle this season, posting a 16-2 record and a 1.71 ERA in 126.2 innings of work. Campbell threw her first career no-hitter in an 11-0 five-inning win Saturday for the Mountain Hawks.

The Patriot League Tournament will be held May 7-9 at Lehigh’s Leadership Park. The tournament format will be a three-day, double elimination tournament between the four teams competing.

Lehigh has been successful against the other three participating teams, winning seven of eight games played against them. The Mountain Hawks will open up the tournament against No. 4 seed Army at 12:05 p.m. on May 7.

Beyond the upcoming tournament, Yozzo is very clear about the team’s postseason goals.

“The goal is to obviously win a Patriot League Championship, go to regionals and stay together as a team for long as possible,” she said.

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