Lehigh senior Alexis Watanabe goes by a different name when she steps onto softball field: “Ninja.”
She stands 5 feet tall, but her high energy and fast reactions on the base paths are a couple of the reasons why she leads the team in both runs scored and stolen bases.
Watanabe’s quickness was on display in the sixth inning of the Mountain Hawks’ Patriot League Tournament opener against Bucknell on Thursday when she followed up a leadoff single by swiping second base.
A couple of batters later, senior Morgan Decker hit the ball into center field, and again the speed of Watanabe made a difference as she was able to slide into home plate just ahead of the throw to break the scoreless tie.
Ultimately, the run ended up being the only score of the game and Lehigh prevailed 1-0 on its home field, Leadership Park.
Lehigh coach Fran Troyan said that it was his decision to have Watanabe steal second, a gutsy call with no outs in the penultimate inning of a scoreless playoff game.
However, the Mountain Hawk known as Ninja didn’t feel nervous about the pressure of the situation.
“Whether you have the confidence or not, you have to know that you’re going to steal,” Watanabe said. “It’s all about the mindset.”
After Lehigh (36-14) took the lead, it had the opportunity to extend it in the same inning with runners on second and third base and only one out. However, the Mountain Hawks could not take advantage of the situation and it remained a one-run game.
The slim margin of victory gave Lehigh starting pitcher Christine Campbell (19-8) little room for error for the entire afternoon.
Her statistics for the game were not optimal, giving up six hits and walking a pair of batters without registering a strikeout, but the important thing for Campbell was leaving a zero on the scoreboard for Bucknell (27-21).
“I think it was a product of both the defense and composure that our whole team had,” Cambell said. “So even when we had runners on second and third, we all knew that we could get out of that, and we all just stayed relaxed.”
Campbell’s shutout was her second in her last three games. She continues to trouble opposing hitters with her off-speed pitches.
Troyan has yet to decide who will pitch the next game for Lehigh on Friday, but if it isn’t Campbell, it’ll be freshman Emily Sorem, who has had a successful rookie campaign pitching behind Campbell.
The decision will depend on who the Mountain Hawks face in their next tournament game because each pitcher has a different style. After their win today, that opponent will be the winner of the other Thursday game between Army West Point and Boston University.
Whomever it plays on Friday, Lehigh will be the favorite as the No. 1 seed playing at its home field.