1997 Season in Review
Losing an outstanding senior class after the 1996 season which included one of Villanova's all-time best pitchers in Tina Sabunas and the entire left side of the Wildcat infield, 1997 looked to be a season filled with question marks. With the introduction of a new softball field and yet another outstanding freshman class to add to the strong group of returnees already present however, the Wildcats brought an exciting new brand of softball to the Main Line.
Beginning the 1997 season, the Villanova softball team struggled to a 14-23 mark. The Wildcats lost five of those games by only one run, however, and clearly were beginning to find themselves by mid-season. The Cats finished the year with a strong run, going 10-5 over their last fifteen games to finish the season with a 24-28 record.
The 1997 season was filled with numerous outstanding individual performances, as the Cats showed off the bright future they have ahead of them. Junior first baseman Kelly Sparks was named to the All-Big East Second Team after hitting .278 in Big East play and finishing the season with 16 RBI. Two freshmen making an immediate impact were infielder Tiffany Bachman and outfielder Kristen Verhoff, who were named to the Big East's All-Rookie Team. Leading the team with a flawless fielding percentage, Verhoff also showed off her offensive prowess hitting .316. Bachman hit .387 in Big East games finishing second on the Wildcat team in that category.
Anchoring the Cats offense in 1997 was junior designated hitter Kelly McCoy. McCoy, a first-team All-Region selection, batted .397 last season leading the team with 34 RBI and 85 total bases. Two others players adding to the Cats offensive fire power were junior Jessica DeLuca and freshman Megan O'Leary. DeLuca batted .337 and broke the Villanova all-time stolen base record stealing 23 bases in 23 attempts. For her outstanding play, DeLuca was named to the All-Region Second Team. Although she did not receive the accolades, O'Leary also turned in an outstanding season starting 36 games in the outfield and batting .404 with 17 RBI.
Trying to make up for the loss of Sabunas, the Villanova pitching staff showed promise this past season with all four returning for 1998. Freshman Carrie Walpole led the Wildcats with a 10-6 record and a 1.52 ERA in 92 innings. Picking up seven and six wins respectively, juniors Brenda Roach and Jennifer Cornelius were both key members of the staff in 1997. Sophomore Jenny Joyce also contributed over 26 innings giving the pitching staff much needed depth.
The Wildcats lost only two seniors to graduation after the 1997 season, but captains Bridget Baxter (second base) and Natalie Black (catcher) were each a force on both offense and defense and will be sorely missed. Black hit .326 with 21 RBI this season, starting in all 52 games. Baxter hit .268 and became the first Villanova softball player in school history to score 100 runs and tally 200 hits. The Cats will have try to make up for the loss of these graduates with senior Stacey Stack, who will see time behind the plate in addition to her outfield duties, and with the contributions of another talented freshmen class in 1998.
Despite a 24-28 record and the loss of their two senior captains, 1998 already looks bright for head coach Maria DiBernardi and the Villanova Wildcat softball team. With just the right combination of pitching and offense, along with the solid base running of players like DeLuca, the
Cats are looking to move their way up the Big East standings this spring.
1997 Villanova Softball Accolades
- Junior Kelly Sparks is named to the All-Big East Second Team
- Freshmen Tiffany Bachman and Kristen Verhoff are named to the Big East All-Rookie
- Junior Kelly McCoy is named to the All-Region First Team.
- Junior Jessica DeLuca breaks the Villanova all-time stolen base mark, finishing the season with 23, and is named to the All-Region Second Team
- Senior Bridget Baxter becomes the first player in Villanova history to reach the 100 run and 200 hit mark