Lehigh softball Abbey Tabaka (left) and Crysta Duenas (right) pose in the dugout holding a pride flag during the Pride Game on April 30, hosted in partnership with Lehigh's Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity. Lehigh defeated Princeton, 5-0, at Leadership Park (Holly Fasching/B&W Staff)

Lehigh softball celebrates love during Pride Game


Rita Jones, director of Lehigh’s Center for Gender Equity, walked from the home team’s dugout at Leadership Park to the pitching circle before the Mountain Hawks’ Pride Game on April 30 against Princeton.

She is flanked by Lehigh sophomore utility player Abbey Tabaka and stands beside her as she delivers the ceremonial first pitch. 

Behind the plate is junior catcher/first baseman Rory Dudley. 

Usually Dudley puts on her catcher’s helmet when she’s behind the plate, but for this pitch she dawned no equipment, only a rainbow-colored tie holding her hair up as Jones delivered the first pitch right over the dish. 

Dudley and Tabaka, both members of the LGBTQ+ community, organized the event with the help of Lehigh’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity and the Pride Center. 

The pair played in a game against Colgate University last season where the Raiders held their own Pride Game and decided to bring the idea to Lehigh. 

“We wanted to do one this year so we can share the love with everybody, for those who are out and those who aren’t out” Tabaka said. “It’s always a good thing to celebrate love and we wanted to do that in the sport we love.” 

The pair suggested rainbow ribbons and lapel pins for players and spectators. The Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity also made buttons for the event. 

“So we reached out to Rita, who’s awesome,” Tabaka said. “We kind of just went step by step on picking a day and then designing pins, what did we want at the game, did we want food, who wanted to be there? And then we had her throw the first pitch out which was really exciting and meaningful.” 

The game was originally scheduled for April 3, but after the postponement of the contest, it was moved to the last day of the month. 

Now late into the year, an inconsistent breeze cooled the ball park on the high-70s day and supported the Pride flag that sophomore infielder Crysta Duenas held as she left the dugout to stretch between innings. 

Dudley first dug into the batter’s box as the first hitter of the second inning for the Mountain Hawks. She let a first pitch ball sail away from the plate before smacking the second pitch she saw into shallow right field, reaching first. 

Dudley scored from second after an RBI double by first-year infielder Maddy Clark to hang the first run of the game on the board. 

In the fifth inning, Tabaka took the field at first base and Dudley was moved to catcher. 

During Tabaka’s first at bat, she hit the first ball she saw directly down the first base line, causing it to deflect off the bag and away from the first baseman’s glove for a single.

In the same inning, Dudley stepped back up to the plate and blasted a homer to left field, driving herself and Tabaka in. 

Her teammates evacuated the dugout, waving a pride flag as they crowded home plate, all of them celebrated and embraced Dudley as she touched home on her fourth home run of the season. 

“To have Abbey on base while it happened was just so cool,” Dudley said. “When I was running around the bases I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I actually just did that.’” 

Lehigh would end up with the, 5-0, victory with Tabaka and Dudley’s contributions being deciding factors in the win. 

Still, Dudley noted the day was much more important because they got to celebrate and give voice to the large LGBTQ+ population in the sport.

“It is very important to us and we really wanted to have a game where we could celebrate who we are and celebrate everyone in softball who’s the same way,” Dudley said “We were really excited and we were excited that our teammates were supportive as well.”

Jones noted the importance not only to the softball team, but to all of Lehigh athletics. 

“We need to think about all of our students athletes’ full identities and celebrate them all the time,” Jones said. 

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