Lehigh softball is in the running for a first-place finish in the Patriot League following a 4-2 victory over Colgate on April 16.
Their win extended their undefeated conference start to nine games, during which they have scored 33 more runs than the teams they have faced.
Since the team’s 10-9 win against Marist on March 19, Lehigh has won 15 of their last 19 games. Season sweeps against Patriot League opponents Lafayette, Bucknell and Colgate have allowed them to maintain an undefeated conference record.
Fifth-year shortstop Carley Barjaktarovich leads the team in batting average in conference games with .541. She said a team-first attitude has contributed to their success.
“One of the biggest things is playing for each other and not for ourselves,” Barjaktarovich said. “When we play to have fun, we tend to play a lot better.”
Junior outfielder Brooke Cannon shared a similar sentiment regarding team relationships.
Cannon said the team’s chemistry has helped players feel comfortable giving and taking constructive criticism in order to adapt and stay ahead of their opponents.
In addition to the strong team bond, their dominant pitching has continued to make the team a challenge for league opponents.
The pitching staff has only allowed two runs or less in 19 of their 31 victories this season. Led by a rotation of junior Katelyn Young and breakout first-year Chloe Hess, the team posted an ERA of 1.92 across conference games.
Hess said the team’s strong defense, especially from Barjaktarovich and first-year second baseplayer Lily Owens, has led to success on the mound.
“It’s our defense that (is) saving a bunch of balls that could have been hits,” Hess said.
Lehigh sits second in the league in batting average and ERA behind Boston University, who is also undefeated in conference play and holds a 35-7 overall season record.
Lehigh will face Boston at home on May 6 and 7 in its final series before the Patriot League Tournament.
Boston went undefeated in conference play last year until they faced Lehigh. In the final week of the 2022 regular season, Lehigh won two of three games in a series against Boston, whom they would face a week later in the Patriot League Tournament.
After playing conference opponents Colgate and Army, the Mountain Hawks defeated the Terriers to win the league title.
Sitting at 30-9, Lehigh remains within reach of capturing the top seed for the Patriot League tournament in May. Ranking first place in the league would mean the tournament would be hosted at Leadership Park.
With three Patriot League series remaining, Cannon said she hopes to maintain their winning performances and keep up the pace with Boston in standings.
“Having that momentum of those winning streaks and those feel-good games, (and) having those to go forward is going to help us win each and every single game in order to get to the tournament,” Cannon said.
Lehigh has the chance to clinch the title for the second year in a row — a task Lehigh softball has not done since winning titles in 2011 and 2012.
Lehigh softball’s next game is a non-conference matchup against Villanova on April 19 at Leadership Park. Their next conference series will be on April 22 and 23 when they play Army at home.
“Winning (the championship) last year motivates us to win it again this year because we know how it feels to be on top,” Barjaktarovich said.