BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Lehigh softball team will travel to Lynchburg, Va., to compete in the Liberty Invitational beginning Friday. The Mountain Hawks will play a total of five games over three days against highly competitive teams in their second tournament of the season.
Lehigh will open the tournament against George Washington (9 a.m.) and then will face tournament host Liberty (4:30 p.m.) on Friday. Saturday will consist of one game against Rutgers (11:30 a.m.). Lehigh will play No. 25/RV Notre Dame (9 a.m.) and James Madison (11:30 a.m.) on Sunday to close out the tournament.
The Mountain Hawks hold a 2-3 record so far after impressive showings on both offense and defense two weeks ago at the Wolfpack Classic. First-year Rory Dudley went 5-for-13 on the weekend, leading Lehigh with three runs scored and two stolen bases, earning her Patriot League Rookie of the Week honors. Senior Jaelynn Chesson led the Mountain Hawks with three RBIs and hit Lehigh’s first home run of the season. Junior Emily Cimino led Lehigh with seven hits, featuring a walk-off two-run double in the 11th inning against Fairfield for Lehigh’s first win of the season.
Senior Gabriella Nori led the Mountain Hawk pitching staff over the weekend, allowing just four runs in 13.2 innings. She proved to be instrumental in Saturday’s victory over Fairfield, throwing three innings of relief and earning the victory. Nori totaled 16 strikeouts and one walk at the Wolfpack Classic.
Four of Lehigh’s five opponents at Liberty were NCAA Tournament teams in 2021.
George Washington sits at 5-7 for the season but will come with some momentum after going 3-1 last weekend at the Liberty Classic. The Colonials have so far competed at the Gamecock Invitational, Spiro Classic and Liberty Classic. The GW offense is led by sophomore Alexa Williams who has tallied 11 hits and nine RBIs in 12 games. Graduate student Sierra Lange has seen most of the time in the circle for George Washington, starting nine games and going 5-4 with a 4.01 ERA in 51.2 innings. The Colonials are the defending Atlantic 10 champions.
Lehigh’s only previous meetings with George Washington were in the 2004 season opener, where Lehigh posted 8-0 and 11-3 victories.
Liberty will look to build on its 9-6 season record as the Flames’ 11-game home stand winds down. After starting the season with five losses, the Lady Flames have won nine of their last 10 games. Sophomore Caroline Hudson leads Liberty’s offense with two home runs and nine RBIs in 14 games. Sophomore Karlie Keeney has led the Liberty pitchers going 5-2 with a 2.47 ERA in 45.1 innings. Liberty won the Atlantic Sun last season and reached a regional final.
Lehigh is 2-0 all-time versus Liberty with victories in 1996 and 2004.
Friday’s game featuring Lehigh and host Liberty will be broadcast on ESPN+.
Rutgers will also be riding some momentum going into the weekend, as the Scarlet Knights have won nine of their last 10 games to move to 11-4 on the season. Graduate student Gabrielle Callaway leads Rutgers in the batter’s box with a team-high 18 hits, two home runs and 14 RBIs. Junior Jaden Vickers is the Scarlet Knights’ ace going 7-1 with a 1.91 ERA and 65 strikeouts.
The Scarlet Knights lead the all-time series 8-6 and won the two most recent meetings in 2017.
No. 25/RV Notre Dame has a season record of 12-3 and is heading into the weekend on a seven-game win streak that has featured victories against No. 21/22 LSU and No. 9/11 Texas. Graduate student Abby Sweet has spearheaded the Fighting Irish’s offensive efforts, posting a .444 batting average, 14 runs and three home runs in 15 games. Notre Dame’s pitching staff features three pitchers each holding a win-loss record of 4-1.
Sunday’s game will mark the first-ever meeting between Lehigh and Notre Dame in softball.
A Women’s College World Series semifinalist last year, James Madison holds a 3-5 overall record and comes into the weekend having lost all four of its games last weekend at the UCF Knights Classic. Hannah Hennessey leads the offense with eight hits and six RBIs. Alexis Bermudez and Alissa Humphrey have thrown all but 1.2 innings for JMU this season.
James Madison leads the all-time series 5-2 with the teams splitting a pair of games in 2020.
Following the Liberty Invitational, the Mountain Hawks will travel to Harrisonburg, Va., next weekend for four games at the JMU Classic, Mar. 11-13. Lehigh will face Arkansas, Maryland and James Madison. The Mountain Hawks will then conclude spring break week with six games in Florida at USF, Mar. 16-19.
Story by Joey Dotta ’22