By Michael Wax
Boston University and Lehigh, the two best regular season teams in the Patriot League, both won their first games of the Patriot League tournament on Thursday afternoon. Top-seeded BU (49-8, 18-1 PL) took down Bucknell (16-29, 8-10 PL) 5-1 in game one, while Lehigh (40-12, 16-2 PL) beat Army (20-36, 10-9 PL) 5-1 as well.
BU and Lehigh Will square off tomorrow to see who will compete for the Patriot League Championship on Saturday, while Bucknell and Army will play in an elimination game after.
Game 1: BU Defeats Bucknell 5-1
Pregame, BU honored their regular season Patriot League award winners in front of their home crowd. BU swept the awards this season, with the following winners:
Rookie of the Year – Freshman pitcher Kasey Ricard
Pitcher of the Year – Senior Allison Boaz
Player of the Year – Senior shortstop Kayla Roncin
Defender of the Year – Senior third baseman Caitlin Coker
Scholar of the Year – Senior third baseman Caitlin Coker
Coach of the Year – Ashley Waters
For Waters, it was her third straight Patriot League Coach of the Year award.
I’ve got really great players and I have a really great staff,” Waters said. “It’s obviously an honor, but the way I really look at it is I’m surrounded by really great people and it makes my job a lot of fun.”
Coming into this year, the Terriers had won 10 straight against the Bison, their last loss coming in a 2019 away game. This was also the first meeting in the Patriot League tournament between the Bison and Terriers since 2018, a game the Terriers won 6-4.
The game featured a starting pitching matchup of Boaz and senior Olivia Marinelli.
Bucknell struck first in the second inning, the first time BU had given up the opening run in a game since April 22 against Colgate. After two quick outs, junior third baseman Noelle Gardon lined a double off the very top of the wall, and junior right fielder Annabella Hawkins followed with a single up the middle. A strong throw from BU senior center fielder Lauren Keleher looked to have Gardon thrown out, but she slid under the tag of senior catcher Audrey Sellers to give Bucknell the lead.
“You got to play the game a full seven innings. I think for us, we had to relax a little bit,” Waters said. “You can give it a run. That’s okay. That’s the reality of the sport.”
BU would respond with three in the bottom half of the inning, all with two outs. With freshman pinch runner Aimee Metz on second, Keleher lined a pitch up the middle to tie the game and advanced to second on the throw. The move-up proved crucial, as senior shortstop Kayla Roncin lined an 0-1 pitch into right field to score Keleher and give BU the lead. On the very next pitch, Gant hit a sharp ground ball to second, and senior Kailyn Lorberter made an impressive snag to keep it from the outfield. Her flip to first base was errant, rolling to the foul-ground fence as Roncin came in to score and double BU’s lead.
Bucknell threatened early in the fourth, getting a walk and a hit to lead off the inning before BU handed the ball over to freshman pitcher Kasey Ricard. After a sac bunt and a walk, Ricard faced a bases-loaded, one-out scenario. As she had all regular season, she worked out of the jam, striking out the next two hitters to preserve the lead. Her biggest test of the season came with freshman outfield Haley Speicher, who forced a full count and a 10-pitch at-bat before Ricard got the strikeout.
“If I’m being honest, I love pitching in pressure situations like that,” Ricard said. “I always seem to be right on point whenever I go into a situation like that.”
BU found their legs again in the fifth, plating two runs and driving the lead up to four. After a leadoff single from Sellers, Keleher lined a 1-2 pitch into right, scoring Sellers and getting Keleher all the way to third. Three batters later, and after a missed opportunity for BU to score on a flyout, senior designated player Emily Gant drove the first pitch she saw into right field to make it 5-1.
Ricard made quick work in the sixth and seventh innings to get BU their game one victory.
“I think this entire year, we’ve put her[Ricard] in some really, really difficult situations, and she stepped up,” Waters said. “She’s a young kid, but definitely has a mature mindset when she’s on the mound.”
BU went 2-1 against Lehigh this season, but the Terriers aren’t concerned about who they would’ve faced in the first game tomorrow.
“Whoever we play, we play,” Waters said. “Our mindset is very much: whoever shows up tomorrow at 11 a.m. is who we’re going against.”
Game 2: Lehigh Defeats Army 5-1
After a quiet first inning, Lehigh would strike in the second. Junior center fielder Brooke Cannon had a leadoff single, and sophomore first baseman Rory Dudley would send a fly ball into left-center that would drop after a collision between senior center fielder Brook Mitchell and senior left fielder Kaci Donaldson.
Lehigh threatened again in the third inning but made two costly base-running mistakes and saw two out recorded at home plate without a single run being scored.
Donaldson would plate the tying run, and their only run of the game, in the fourth. With Runners on second and third, Donaldson would hit an 0-2 pitch into left for a double, scoring one. The Knights had an opportunity to take the lead on the same play, but freshman first baseman Ashton White waited too long to see if the ball would drop and could only advance 90 ft. This baserunning mistake would prove costly, as Army left both runners in scoring position.
Lehigh retook the lead in the fifth and didn’t look back. The inning started with a first-pitch triple off the bat of senior left fielder Josie Charles, and she would score two batters later, on a single from freshman second baseman Lily Owens. After a walk and an infield single, the Mountain Hawks would make it 3-1 after a fielder’s choice that resulted in no outs.
Lehigh would double their lead in the sixth inning, and make history while doing so. With two Runners on and no one out, senior right fielder Emily Cimino doubled into deep center, scoring two runs and making it a 5-1 game. With her two hits, Cimino set the all-time career record for hits at Lehigh, with 264.
Freshman pitcher Chloe Hess would hurl the complete game, as Lehigh bounced back from their series loss to BU the weekend prior.
Game one between Boston University and Lehigh is scheduled for 11 a.m., while the elimination game between Army and Bucknell is slated for 1:30 p.m.