Patriot League Softball Tournament preview with Coach Heather Rakosik 5-6-09
LEWISBURG, Pa. - With its three victories over Army April 25-26, Bucknell softball earned its second consecutive trip to the Patriot League Tournament and its second No. 3 seed in as many years. The Bison will face No. 2 Colgate in the first game of the double-elimination tournament. The opening contest is slated for 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 7 at Lehigh's Kaufman Field.
Top-seeded Lehigh will take on No. 4 Lafayette in Thursday's other action, with the first pitch coming at 2 p.m.
Bison Softball on the Radio
Bucknell's tournament-opening game on Thursday will be broadcast live on local radio on WVBU 90.5 and online at SportsJuice.com. WVBU and SportsJuice.com will carry the championship game on Saturday as well, should the Bison be in action. Doug Birdsong will have the call.
About the No. 1 Mountain Hawks
Lehigh swept Holy Cross April 25-26, giving them the Patriot League regular-season title and the right to host the league's tournament. Lisa Sweeney was named the league's Pitcher of the Week for the week of April 20 after going 2-0 with 26 strikeouts in three games. The honor marked the third consecutive for Sweeney and the 16th of her career.
Bucknell split the four-game series with Lehigh, giving it two wins in a single series against the Mountain Hawks for the first time since 1999. The Bison won that Saturday's game two in five innings by a score of 9-0, marking the first time since 2007 that Lehigh had been shut out by a league opponent and the first time in more than five years the Mountain Hawks had fallen to a league foe in less than seven innings.
About the No. 2 Raiders
In the last weekend of regular-season Patriot League action, Colgate dropped three of the four games to Lafayette. The Raiders own the top four spots on the league RBI list, as Erin Gomez and Jennifer Ortega each have 19, and Amanda Eccleston and Tiana Tyeskey have posted 18 apiece. Calla Yee also has a significant lead in the stolen bases department. The centerfielder has 13 in league action this year, six ahead of second place.
Colgate swept Bucknell in their regular-season series, although the Bison had their chances. Saturday's game two turned out to be nail biter as the Bison tied the contest twice before falling 14-13 in Hamilton, N.Y. Bucknell evened the score at eight apiece in the third inning and again at 10 apiece in the fifth. The Orange and Blue used their power to keep things close, getting two home runs from Jessie Snyder, a two-run shot from Alison Ford and a grand slam from Cassie Lloyd.
About the No. 4 Leopards
Lafayette made a late push to clinch the final berth in the Patriot League Tournament. Heading into their regular-season-ending series at Colgate, the Leopards were in last place in the league. Their three victories moved them ahead of Army and Holy Cross. Christina Giambrone was named Patriot League Player of the Week, having hit .705 with three home runs and scored nine runs in six games the week of April 20. All three of those homers came in just one game against Colgate, tying a league record for single-game shots. Giambrone was also voted Player of the Week on Monday.
Bucknell and Lafayette went back and forth throughout the regular-season series with the teams splitting decisions on each day of competition in Lewisburg. The four-game set ended with the Bison shutting out Lafayette, 8-0, in six innings. Bucknell claimed the win on some late-inning heroics, as it tallied seven runs in the sixth inning to close the door for good. Ashley Beans drilled a walk-off two-run homer to left field for her team's final runs.
All-Patriot League Honorees
Four Bison were named to the 2009 All-Patriot League teams on Wednesday. Ashley Beans, Elyse Colmenero and Alison Ford were each First Team honorees, while Cassie Lloyd was voted to the Second Team. The award is the first of Ford's career and the second for Beans, Colmenero and Lloyd. Colmenero and Lloyd were both First Team honorees last season. Beans was named to the Second Team as a freshman in 2006.
2008 PL Tournament
As the third seed in the 2008 tournament, Bucknell fell in three games. The Bison won their opening contest, a 10-inning marathon in which they defeated Lafayette, 1-0. They dropped their next two matchups. After falling to Lehigh, 9-5, the Bison suffered through some revenge from the Leopards. Lafayette took Bucknell's final contest 6-4 in eight innings.
Lehigh earned its fourth tournament championship in five years last season. The only team other than Lehigh to claim a title since 2004 is Colgate, which was victorious in 2007.
Going into their final regular-season series last weekend, the Bison were in a fourth-place tie and fighting for one of two remaining berths in the Patriot League Tournament. Bucknell wasted no time claiming its spot, taking the first three games in the four-game set at Army. The Bison swept the action on Saturday, April 25 (1-0 & 9-3) and clinched the berth with a 4-2 victory in game one on Sunday.
Lloyd Leading the League
Cassie Lloyd has led the Patriot League in batting average throughout her senior campaign. At the end of the regular season, the first baseman had earned a .480 (24-for-50) average in league action. Should Lloyd maintain her hold on the top spot through the tournament, she will become the fourth Bison to lead the league in batting, following teammate Elyse Colmenero in 2008 (.468) and former Bison Lauren Wible in 2005 (.558) and Lisa Fink in 1993 (.440).
Ashley Beans and Ashley Carlson moved into the top two spots on Bucknell's career games played list this season. Entering the weekend, Beans and Carlson have played in 196 and 194 games, respectively.
In Good Hands
At the conclusion of the regular season, Bucknell posted a .963 fielding percentage, a mark that includes both league and non-league contests. With some solid defense through the tournament, the Bison could set a new program record for the best fielding percentage in a season. The 1993 team posted a .964 percentage, giving it the top single-season mark in Bucknell history.
Once, Twice, Gone
Jessie Snyder and Elyse Colmenero each posted two-home run games this season. Snyder connected for two fence-clearing shots at Colgate on April 11, while Colmenero repeated the act at Army on April 26. The pair of sophomores became the sixth and seventh Bison to hit two home runs in the same game. Prior to Snyder's outburst, teammate Kristin Frick was the last to accomplish the feat, drilling a pair against Holy Cross on April 26, 2008.
Avoiding Sophomore Slump
Jessie Snyder has avoided the dreaded sophomore slump this season. The infielder has even bettered many of her numbers from her freshman campaign. In 2008, Snyder hit .229 (30-for-131) with 10 RBI, one double and one home run. This season, she is hitting .327 (35-for-107) with 22 RBI, six doubles and six homers. Snyder also has drawn three more walks and scored three more runs than she did last year.
Powerful Pitching Debut
In her first season in the Orange and Blue, Jane Messersmith has put up some impressive numbers. Entering the tournament, the freshman pitcher has allowed 76 walks and struck out 77 batters in 115.2 innings pitched. The base-on-balls and strikeout numbers are tops on the team. Messersmith is also within 10 strikeouts of the Bucknell single-season top 10.
150 Career Wins for Rakosik
With the 5-3 win over Drexel on March 25, head coach Heather Rakosik earned her 150th career victory. Since then, the fifth-year Bison coach has amassed a 160-232-2 record with Bucknell and Ohio Wesleyan.
The Bison Five
Bucknell will graduate five seniors this season in Ashley Beans, Ashley Carlson, Kristin Frick, Cassie Lloyd and Katie McDonald. In their four years in the Orange and Blue, the quintet has been a part of teams that have played in 201 games, hit 77 home runs, scored 795 runs and posted 685 RBI, all program records. The five were recognized prior to the series versus Lehigh for their commitment and dedication to Bucknell Softball.
Ashley Beans has been of the most consistent players for Bucknell this season, posting a .318 average through 48 games. The senior outfielder has started all 48 of the team's contests and has recorded at least one hit on 33 occasions. She earned a 10-game hitting streak, her longest of the season and the longest on the team, between March 31 and April 12. That stretch followed her longest streak without a hit this season, which lasted three games.
Raking in the Weekly Honors
The Bison have claimed four Patriot League weekly honors during the 2009 season. Alyssa Okita was voted the league's Player of the Week on March 16 after hitting .412 with home runs in back-to-back contests against Buffalo and Robert Morris at the Rebel Spring Games. Jane Messersmith was twice named the league's Rookie of the Week, once on March 12 and again on April 27. The freshman pitcher's latest award came after going 1-1 in the pitchers' circle and hitting .571 at the plate against Army. Katie McDonald also earned her first career Patriot League Pitcher of the Week honor on March 30 after going 2-0 in three appearances, posting a 2.42 ERA and striking out 12 in 17.1 innings of work.
With 15 stolen bases on the year, Ashley Carlson will complete her senior season having led the Bison in steals all four years of her career. As a sophomore, the outfielder led the Patriot League in the category with 12. Her total this season marks a career high and gives her 47 during her time in the Orange and Blue, ranking third all-time at Bucknell. With one more steal, Carlson will also move into a tie for 10th on the single-season list.
I'll Take Three
Ashley Beans has hit herself onto a pair of NCAA lists this season. As of April 28, Beans was sixth in the country in triples (6) and 11th in triples per game (0.13). The six triples, which also ranks sixth in Bucknell program history, crushes her previous season best. The senior hit two three-baggers last season, the only other triples of her career.
Single Senior Statesman
On a pitching staff filled with youth, it was up to Katie McDonald to bring the experience. Bucknell's lone senior in the pitchers' circle this season, McDonald has amassed 76 career appearances, ranking her fifth in Bucknell history, and 51 career starts, which is good for an eighth-place tie in the record books. The York, Pa., native also ranks among the Bison's top 10 in career wins (sixth, 23), strikeouts (fifth, 173) and innings pitched (ninth, 342.2). Bucknell's other pitchers, Liz Fanning and Jane Messersmith, are both freshmen.
Lots of Time on the Base Paths
Lauren Fry shares the lead for the Bison in multiple-hit games. The sophomore has 10 on the season, including one contest with three hits. Cassie Lloyd also has 10 multi-hit games in her senior campaign.
The Bison have had a host of academic success in the past year. The 2008 squad was recognized by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), earning a spot on the Girls Got Game Top Ten All-Academic Team. The 2007-08 team posted a grade-point average of 3.402, ranking it 10th among NCAA Division I schools.
Bucknell also led the Patriot League with 12 student-athletes named to the 2008 Patriot League Academic Honor Roll, which cites student-athletes with a GPA of 3.20 or better during the semester coinciding with his or her sport. Among the current Bison to make the honor roll were Ashley Beans (economics), Ashley Carlson (elementary education), Sherry Finkel (environmental studies), Kristin Frick (psychology), Katie McDonald (psychology), Alyssa Okita (mathematics), Mary Pavlovich (biology), Jessie Snyder (undeclared), Kara Sullivan (undeclared) and Lauren Trosch (Spanish).
Late Season Victories
Bucknell struggled throughout much of the season to put together a winning streak, but the team has come on strong in the end. The Bison were victorious in the final game of the series with Lehigh, then took the first three games in the set at Army for its first four-game winning streak of the year. It was also the first time the Orange and Blue strung together two or more wins since defeating Saint Joseph's and sweeping North Carolina Central Feb. 14-15.
The Last Time...
Bucknell won its lone Patriot League Tournament Championship in 1997, and it did so in dramatic fashion. As the No. 2 seed, the Bison moved easily through their first two games, defeating Holy Cross, 4-2, and Lehigh, 1-0. They fell to Colgate, 5-2, but got a second chance in the championship game. The Orange and Blue made the most of the opportunity, taking down the Raiders, 4-1 in 19 innings. Melanie Kulis pitched 16 scoreless innings and gave up just seven hits in 19 innings, giving her co-MVP honors at the end of the tournament. Jenn Gombos broke a 1-1 tie in the 19th with a two-RBI triple.
The Orange and Blue also have a piece of two regular-season titles in program history. They shared the title with the Mountain Hawks in 1994, and were co-champions with Lehigh, Colgate and Holy Cross in 1999.
Adventure Down Under
Four Bison got a taste of international competition as they traveled to Australia last summer. Current student-athletes Ashley Carlson, Sherry Finkel and Mary Pavlovich and former Bison Christie Wiest traveled to the Land of Oz for two weeks, competing against teams from the United States, Australia and New Zealand and traveling throughout the country. The group represented the Orange and Blue well, bringing home the gold medal. Bison fans can read more about the trip at BucknellBison.com.
Three other Bison ventured across borders this year as well. Shelly McCormack and Lauren Trosch each studied abroad during the 2008 fall semester. McCormack, a chemistry major, studied in Ireland, while Trosch studied in Spain as part of her Spanish major. Jessie Snyder spent time in Mexico this summer, working with impoverished and orphaned children as part of a mission trip.
Beginning last winter, the Bison have contributed to BucknellBison.com with their accounts of the 2009 season. Katie McDonald, Jane Messersmith, Jessie Snyder, Mary Pavlovich and Sam Rollandi each touched base with an insider's look at Bucknell Softball. Complete journal entries can be found on the softball team page at BucknellBison.com.
Coming This Summer
The Bison have yet to solidify their summer plans just yet. A Patriot League Tournament Championship will extend their postseason onto the national stage. Although the future is uncertain at this point, the team does have a number of dates marked on its calendar for its summer softball clinics. Visit BucknellBison.com for more information.