Feb. 17, 2012
MIAMI, Fla. - Villanova (1-1) bounced back from an opening loss to Illinois-Chicago by defeating Jacksonville by a score of 3-1 in the second day of the season-opening doubleheader at the FIU Feisberg Memorial. Game two was not the same offensive showing as the first game, but the Wildcats withstood a late rally by the Dolphins to take home their first win of the season.
Senior Molly Manning started off her senior campaign in the circle very well by going all seven innings for the win while giving up no earned runs and striking out seven. Junior Valerie Ortega paced the Wildcat offense with three doubles and an RBI.
Ortega got the first hit of the contest with a two-out double to right field, but Manning was unable to give herself an early lead when she lined out to the pitcher to end the threat. However, Manning started quickly in the circle by sending down the Dolphins in order including a strikeout in the first.
The Wildcats went quickly in the second and the Dolphins attempted to capitalize on the momentum by loading the bases in their half of the frame. Back-to-back singles followed by a walk loaded the bases with nobody out as Manning faced her first tough test of the season, but she rose to the challenge. She struck out the next two hitters and induced a foul pop up to junior catcher Amanda Marquez to end the threat and keep the game scoreless.
After the Dolphins failed to capitalize on the momentum in the second inning, the Wildcats were not going to miss their chance as they provided Manning with all the scoring she would need in the third inning. Senior leftfielder Tessa Braga got her fourth hit of the day with a one-out single to center and stole second base to put a runner in scoring position. Senior center fielder Jamie O'Hara then struck a two-out single to center field for her third RBI of the day and the first Wildcat lead of the season. Ortega then picked up her second double of the day that scored O'Hara and the Wildcats held a two-run advantage. After Ortega stole third base, the Wildcats used a little creativity. Manning drew a walk and intentionally got in a run-down that allowed Ortega to score from third as Manning was tagged out, but the damage was done as Villanova now led 3-0.
Manning worked around two singles in the third, and a double and walk in the fourth to maintain the three-run lead as she continued to dance in and out of trouble.
After the Wildcats were unable to generate offense in the fourth and fifth innings, the Dolphins finally capitalized on all of their baserunners. A one-out double by catcher Sarah Simon put a runner in scoring position, and on the next batter an error by Ortega playing a new position of third base allowed Simon to come around and score. However, Marquez helped bail her defense out again by throwing out the runner attempting to steal second and the Wildcats escaped the fifth maintaining the 3-1 lead.
In the sixth, Villanova attempted to add some insurance when Ortega ripped her third double of the day to left field and advanced to third on a throwing error with nobody out. The Wildcats were unable to capitalize however when the next three hitters popped out, grounded out and struck out, so the defense of Villanova would have to carry them to victory.
Manning allowed just one two-out single in the sixth to set the stage for the tense bottom of the seventh inning. After Manning picked up a ground out and pop out to start the inning, the Dolphins middle of the order strung together a rally. Simon picked up a walk and third baseman Amanda Schmidt doubled to left field to put the tying run on second base with two outs. Manning then settled down and completed what she started by getting a flyout to freshman Beth Smetana in right field to lock down the first win of the 2012 campaign for Villanova.
The win also marks the 692nd of Head Coach Maria DiBernardi's career as she inches closer to the elusive 700-win plateau.
The Wildcats had only five hits in game two compared to ten in game one, but a stellar effort in the circle and on defense ensured Villanova of its first win of the season.
Villanova will continue at the FIU Feisberg Memorial tomorrow with a game against BIG EAST opponent Providence at 1 p.m.