Feb. 17, 2012
MIAMI, Fla. - Villanova (0-1) dropped its season opener to the University of Illinois-Chicago by a score of 10-7 despite Tessa Braga collecting three hits in the opener as the Wildcats mounted a strong 7th inning comeback with 4 runs, but were unable to come all the way back from an early 5-run hole.
The Wildcat offense struggled to find their groove early as they were set down in order in the first two innings, but the Flames having already played four games got to work quickly offensively.
Senior Caitlyn Delahaba made her first start of the young season and the Flames were ready with the bats. After a bunt single with one out, a double by Coryn Schmitt put the Wildcats down 1-0 and following two illegal pitch calls, the Flames held a two run advantage after one inning.
Illinois-Chicago added three more runs in the second after the first three runners reached by single, walk, and a double to left. After a single scored the third run of the inning, junior catcher Amanda Marquez threw out Melissa Preisch trying to steal to avert any further damage.
The Wildcats got their first two runs of the game on base hits followed by some sloppy defense by the opponent. Sophomore shortstop Ali Lowe got her first of two hits on the young season with a one-out single down the left field line and ended up coming all the way around to score after a three base throwing error by Scmitt at first base. Braga tallied her first hit of three hits on the day with a bunt single to first and another throwing error by Schmitt at first allowed Braga to circle the bases and just like that, the Wildcats were back in the game at 5-2. Senior centerfielder Jamie O'Hara then reached on a fielding error by the third baseman with two outs and back-to-back singles by junior first baseman Valerie Ortega and senior designated player Molly Manning brought O'Hara home to cut the Flame deficit to 5-3.
Sophomore pitcher Kaity Sitzman replaced Delahaba in the third inning, and following two one-out walks, she induced a line out double play to Lowe at shortstop to avoid any further trouble.
After the Wildcats went down in order in the fourth, the Flames added to the lead in the bottom of the frame. Sitzman issued a walk followed by a single to put runners at first and second with nobody out, but a fly out put runners at the corners with one out as Villanova could potentially see their way out of the jam. However, a wild pitch swelled Illinois-Chicago's lead to 3 and two hit batters and a walk later built the Flames' lead to 8-3. Delahaba re-entered the game to get the final out by inducing a pop out. Sitzman tossed 1 2/3 innings of ball surrendering 3 earned runs, one hit, and getting one punch out.
Braga started the top of the fifth with her second hit of the day and after she was sacrificed to second by Marquez, the Wildcats were unable to bring the senior left fielder home as the score remained the same.
In the Flames' half of the fifth, they loaded the bases with nobody out on three straight singles and brought two of those runs home with sacrifice flies and the Villanova deficit now stood at 10-3.
After a scoreless sixth inning on both sides, the Wildcats mounted an impressive rally that made the game close again and put them in position to make a great comeback. Back-to-back singles by Lowe and Braga gave a great start to the inning, and both moved into scoring position on a fly out by Marquez. O'Hara then brought both runners home with a single to left and the score was now 10-5 with one out and a runner on first. Following a fielder's choice by Ortega, Manning roped a double to left field, which was follwed by freshman Beth Smetana's first career RBIs and single to center field as Villanova inched closer at 10-7. After an error put junior Julie Smith on base, freshman Randi Josett represented the tying run, but the Villanova magic came to an end as she popped out to second base and Villanova dropped their first game of the season 10-7.
In their first game after a long winter layoff, the Wildcats tallied ten hits and seven runs. Delahaba went 4 1/3 innings, surrendering 10 hits, 7 runs, and three walks while striking out one.