Lisa Sweeney posted a 26-6 record and struck out 228 batters as a freshman last spring.
Prior to last season, the No.1 item on softball coach Fran Troyan's to-do list was to find a new pitching ace to replace Emily Ling '05, Lehigh's all-time strikeout leader.
The search didn't take long.
"I only needed to see Lisa Sweeney throw three pitches to know she was special," says Troyan.
Troyan had 1,263 reasons—that's how many career strikeouts Sweeney registered as an all-state pitcher at Rancocas Valley (N.J.) High School—to be confident in her abilities. As a freshman last spring, Sweeney didn't disappoint, posting a 26-6 record and striking out 228 batters as Lehigh remained the Patriot League's elite program.
The secret to Sweeney's success is a pitching repertoire that would get Roger Clemens' attention, combined with a competitive nature that's simply part of her DNA. Her older sister Chris was a college softball pitcher. Sweeney's father, Tom, played a year of college basketball at Fairfield (Conn.) University, while mom Betsy was a softball pitcher at Trenton (N.J.) State.
Sweeney keeps opposing hitters off-balance with six different pitches, including a fastball clocked in the mid-60s (the equivalent of a 95-m.p.h. fastball in baseball, given that it's thrown from 43 feet away).
"Lisa's best days are still ahead of her because she will get stronger in the weight room and will become more polished the more college games she pitches,"says Troyan.
Led by its dominant ace, Lehigh (43-14 in 2006) is favored to win its ninth consecutive Patriot League title and a fourth straight NCAA tournament invite. Sweeney is one of five returning all-league players, along with outfielders Julie Sterrett and Kate Marvel, third baseman Heather Hamasaki, and designated hitter Lauren Haney.
"Our goals are the same. We want to win the Patriot League, go back to the NCAAs, and hopefully make some noise once we get there," Sweeney says.
Lehigh Alumni Bulletin
Photo courtesy of Lehigh Athletic Department