April 20, 2012
WEST POINT, N.Y. -
Army's softball team can clinch a Patriot League Tournament berth this weekend with a pair of wins in its four-game series with Lafayette at the Softball Complex. The doubleheaders were originally scheduled to be played Saturday and Sunday, but the threat of rain forced the games to be moved up a day to Friday (4 p.m.) and Saturday (1 p.m.).
All four games will be carried on ITT Exelis Knight Vision with live audio and video feeds both days. Live stats for each game will be available via GameTracker by logging onto Army's official athletics website and navigating to the softball schedule page. In-game Twitter updates will also be offered throughout the weekend via Army's official Twitter handle (@ArmyAthletics).
Army's four-game sweep of Bucknell last weekend moved the Black Knights into a tie for second place with Colgate after the Raiders split their series with Lafayette. The Black Knights and Raiders, who are also in the mix for a tournament berth, are 9-3 and two games behind leader Lehigh (11-1).
The defending champion Mountain Hawks look to strengthen their hold onto hosting the tournament next month. Lehigh last hosted the tournament in 2009 with Army and Colgate earning the top seed the last two years. Lehigh and Colgate face off in Bethlehem, Pa., this weekend and the results could have a bearing on Army's hopes of returning the tournament to West Point.
The Black Knights (27-15, 9-3 PL), who close out league play by hosting Lehigh the final weekend of competition, cannot afford to look past a Lafayette team that split with Colgate last weekend. Army came away with just one win in its series with the Raiders, which is sandwiched around sweeps of Holy Cross and Bucknell.
Army is in the midst of a six-game win streak that includes five straight league games. The Black Knights have been successful both on the road and at home. They are currently riding a 10-game home win streak that ranks fifth longest in the country trailing Louisiana of Lafayette with 36, followed by Boise State (26), Texas Southern (16), Nebraska (14) and Army.
Overall, Army is batting .299 to rank second in the league with Alexis AuBuchon pacing the team with a .402 average, along with a team-high 27 runs batted in that ranks third in the conference. Ortenzo, the reigning Patriot League and ECAC Player of the Week, leads the club with 29 runs and 54 hits batting .370 with Amanda Nguyen second in hits (52) and runs (28) hitting .361. Army's trio ranks among the league's leaders in every offensive category. Alex Reynolds trails AuBuchon in RBI with 26 and ranks third in runs scored (26). She is tied with freshman Rae Anne Payleitner for the lead in home runs with four.
Freshman Morgan Lashley, ranked ninth nationally in wins with 22 after setting a school single-season mark over the weekend, boosted that number to 23 following her sixth straight win in Tuesday's 5-0 shutout of Iona. The RHP, who picked up her second Patriot League Pitcher of the Year citation after hurling Army to all four Bucknell wins, leads the conference in victories, strikeouts (166), innings pitched (226), appearances (41) and starts (36).
The Black Knights are batting .341 in league play with AuBuchon leading the team with a .526 batting average, a .571 on-base percentage, and 20 hits to include five doubles and two home runs for a .816 slugging percentage, along with 16 RBI. Orentzo is next at .500 leading the squad with 22 hits and 14 runs. On the homefront, the sophomore shortstop is batting .432 with 16 hits and 10 runs followed by AuBuchon who is hitting .419.
Army has outscored its opponents, 73-12, outhitting them, 95-73, in batting .331 at the Softball Complex where the Black Knights ripped eight of their 12 home runs this season. Lashley shows a stingy 1.27 ERA there in compiling an 8-1 mark with freshman hurler Jules Steurer unbeaten at 2-0 at home where Army shows a 10-1 record. The Black Knights are also closing in on registering their fourth 30-win season and second in three years under head coach Michelle DePolo, who tied the school mark setting a Division I record with 33 in 2010.
Lafayette brings a 5-7 league mark and 11-26 overall record into its series with Army. Since earning a pair of wins over Colgate last weekend, the Leopards went 1-3 during the week after being swept by Temple while splitting a twinbill with St. Peter's. The Black Knights swept both teams last month, erupting for 32 runs against the Peahens.
The Leopards, currently in fourth place in the standings, can lock up a tourney spot if it they can gain distance over Holy Cross (2-10) and Bucknell (0-12), who are playing each other this weekend. Lafayette is batting .236 with Gwen Turner pacing the club with a .371 batting and 24 runs scored. Lauren Murphy is the RBI leader with 31 and shares the lead in doubles (eight). Melissa Robinson has been the workhorse in the circle showing a 2.41 ERA along with 72 strikeouts forging a 10-14 mark.
Army holds a 58-17 all-time lead in its series with Lafayette that dates back to 1990, the Black Knights last year at Division II prior to joining the Patriot League in 1991. Army swept the Leopards in their last visit to West Point in 2010 and won three of last year's four-game series.