Lehigh softball seniors look to defend their Patriot League title this season when they open up their season in Tuscaloosa with a non-league game versus Georgia Southern on Feb. 10, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Softball kicks off season with southern road trip


Lehigh softball is opening their season down south with the Leadoff Classic on Feb. 10

Lehigh will play a game against the University of Alabama and Georgia Southern University on Feb. 10 and Feb. 11 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

After winning the 2022 Patriot League Championship, the Mountain Hawks return 12 players, including fifth-year infielder Carley Barjaktarovich.

Barjaktarovich won the Patriot League Preseason Defensive Player of the Year award and was named to the preseason All-Patriot League team alongside junior pitcher Katelyn Young and senior outfielder Emily Cimino. 

It’s a really tough opening weekend,” Cimino said. “I think that it’ll show us where we’re at, where we need to get better at and hopefully build some confidence, like, ‘we can play with these teams.’”

Their first opponent, Alabama, enters the Leadoff Classic nationally ranked No. 6, according to D1Softball.com

Cimino said her teammates are up to the task. 

“At the end of last year, it was very clear that we were ready to play with some of these bigger named teams,” Cimino said. “I think that we have the ability to do that this year.”

Coach Fran Troyan feels confident in the team’s preparedness. However, Troyan said they do face one disadvantage: unlike many of their opponents, Lehigh practices in an indoor fieldhouse, instead of a softball field, due to Pennsylvania’s colder climate. 

“Softball’s not meant to be played in an indoor area with a rubberized floor,” Troyan said. “So there are a lot of things that we’re not able to work on realistically until we get out and play games in the field.”

The main goal of the southern road trips is to win, Troyan said, but regardless of the outcome, these matchups against nationwide powerhouses serve as a benchmark for his team.

How they play in these games will help inform their practices moving forward.

“What a team like Alabama will likely do is it’ll expose the things you really need to spend some time on, in terms of working on and shoring up,” Troyan said.

Lehigh will face Power Five programs including Alabama, Iowa and Texas within the next six weeks, which will allow them to sharpen team play before their Patriot League opener on March 25 at Lafayette.

The Leadoff Classic is the first of multiple road trips to the South for Lehigh. The team will play in the HU/NSU Tour Classic in Norfolk, Virginia, and Hampton, Virginia on Feb. 17 and compete in the Camel Stampede in Buies Creek, North Carolina, on March 3. 

Lehigh will wrap up their out-of-conference play with 12 games in Florida from March 11 to March 19.

Junior catcher Amanda Greaney said many of their non-conference foes will be different from what they’re used to, but she relishes the opportunity to grow as a team. She said she sees the trip as an opportunity to bring the team closer and become more familiar with each other’s playing styles. 

“Just going to the airport, flying together, we’re with each other the whole day,” Greaney said. “Spending time in the hotel with each other, still getting work done, but being able to kind of just be there for softball. It’s definitely huge off the field.”

Troyan said the team’s leaders have exhibited “tremendous leadership” towards the younger players, which he is excited to see throughout the season as they gain new experiences.

“Having (the younger players) see the way that we’re excited to take on the weekend helps them also be excited and be ready for it,” Cimino said.

Lehigh enters the season as the second ranked team in the Patriot League, behind Boston University, who they defeated in the Patriot League Championship last year. 

Lehigh softball will play their first home game on March 22 against Monmouth.

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