March 2, 2012
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Villanova (4-3) plated three runs in the decisive sixth inning of a 1-1 game against Central Arkansas (13-8) with RBIs from Tessa Braga, Kristi Burlin, and Beth Smetana en route to a 4-1 win in the 2nd game of the USF Under Armour Invitational. Senior Molly Manning bounced back by earning the win in the circle with a complete game effort while giving up no earned runs. Smetana paced the offense with two RBIs as the Wildcats racked up nine hits.
The Bears got on the board early against Manning on the strength of a hit and error. The lead-off hitter reached on a single up the middle, but a flyout and fielder's choice followed to put a runner at first with two outs. Central Arkansas centerfielder Ashley Boswell then lined a ball to center fielder that was in and out of the glove of senior center fielder Jamie O'Hara as she was coming in on the ball that put two runners in scoring position with two outs. With third baseman Tiffany Roby in the box, Manning uncorked a wild pitch that allowed the first run of the game to score and gave the Bears a 1-0 lead heading to the bottom of the first inning.
Senior third baseman Kristi Burlin tallied her first hit of the season after missing the first five games due to an injury, on an infield single, but junior first baseman Valerie Ortega skied a pop out to end the first inning with the Bears on top by one.
Each team went scoreless in the second as Central Arkansas had a two-out triple that Manning worked out of and the Wildcats went down in order in their half.
In the top of the third, Manning set down the first two hitters in order before the Bears loaded the bases with two singles and a hit batter. Much like her first start of the season in her win over Jacksonville, she worked out of the trouble by striking out Nicole Beals looking to keep Villanova within striking distance down by one run. In the Wildcat half of the third, junior second baseman Taylor Olafson singled with one out to end a string of five straight retired hitters before senior Jamie O'Hara lined a ball up the middle that Bears' pitcher Cami Newsome caught and she tossed it to first for the double play to end the third inning.
In the top of the fourth, Manning started with a strikeout, but a walk followed by a two-out single put a runner in scoring position for the fourth straight inning. Manning settled down to strike out the next hitter for her third of the game as the Bears had stranded seven runners through four innings of play. Villanova continued to struggle through the fourth inning with the bats as they went down in order for the second time. Ortega was robbed of a hit with two outs as she lofted a ball softly over the shortstop's head, but Lissa Avitia ranged back and made a leaping grab to end the inning.
After working around base runners for the first four innings, Manning had her first easy frame of the day in the fifth when she sent Central Arkansas down in order. Junior catcher Amanda Marquez made a nice play on a ball that spun off the plate when she scooped it up and threw the runner out at first.
After Marquez flew out to start the bottom of the fifth, Manning helped her cause by lofting a single down the left field line to give the Wildcats a runner on first with one out. Freshman Beth Smetana stepped to the plate and hit a fly ball to right field that bounced past a sliding right fielder and rolled all the way to the corner. Freshman pinch runner Kera Pezzuti came around to score and Smetana slid into third with the RBI triple and the game was tied 1-1. Villanova still had the opportunity to take the lead into the sixth inning, but junior pinch hitter Julie Smith grounded out sharply to shortstop and junior Taylor Olafson followed up with the same to keep the game dead locked.
Manning looked to keep the offensive momentum going by shutting down the Central Arkansas offense, but the Bears got their lead-off hitter on base by single. Manning followed that with a strikeout and pop out for the first two outs of the inning. Bear centerfielder Stephanie Lasley then laid down a perfect bunt and Manning picked it up to throw, but missed Olafson covering first base which allowed the runners to advance to second and third with two outs. After intentionally walking the next hitter, Manning induced a fly ball that O'Hara squeezed to put the Bear rally to rest.
Villanova seized control of the game in the bottom of the sixth after struggling offensively earlier in the game. O'Hara jump started the offense again with a line drive triple to left center field, her second of the season. Senior left fielder Tessa Braga followed with a single of her own to left field that brought O'Hara home for the go-ahead run. Braga also advanced on the throw home and the Wildcats had chased Bears' starting pitcher Cami Newsome from the game. Reliever Taylor Barclay uncorked a wild pitch to Burlin to advance Braga to third and Burlin executed her job by hitting a sacrifice fly to right field that allowed Braga to score for an insurance run and a 3-1 lead. Ortega added a one-out single and following a fielder's choice, Manning added her second hit of the day to put runners on first and second with two outs. That's when Smetana stepped up again for the Wildcats and delivered another RBI single, her third RBI of the day, and Villanova led 4-1 heading to the seventh. The Wildcats collected three runs and five hits in the frame, which was more than double their total from the previous five innings.
In the seventh, Manning relied on great defense to cement the victory. Burlin made a great stab on a line drive from the lead-off hitter and Lowe tracked a foul pop up down the left field line for the first two outs. Braga came on to make a nice running catch to finish off the Bears in a 4-1 win as Manning had her second perfect inning of the night. Villanova swept the first two games of its opening doubleheader at the USF Under Armour Invitational with wins over Central Arkansas and Central Michigan.
Manning went the distance surrendering just one unearned run on seven hits while striking out four and walking two.
Villanova had nine hits in the game with two from Smetana and Manning. Smetana had three RBIs in the two games today while Ortega added three hits of her own in the two victories.
The win also marks the 695th of Head Coach Maria DiBernardi's career at Villanova. It is the second time this season Villanova has won back-to-back games this season as they did so at the FIU Feisberg Memorial against Jacksonville and Providence
The Wildcats will be back in action here in Clearwater at the USF Under Armour Invitational against Hampton at 2 p.m. looking to make it three wins in a row.
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