March 2, 2012
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Senior Caitlyn Delahaba pitched the 58th complete game in her Wildcat career to set the all-time school record in a 3-2 victory over Central Michigan (0-6). Delahaba surrendered just one earned run over seven innings and Villanova (3-3) pounded out eight hits to back the senior pitcher's complete game effort.
Delahba had a quick first inning, allowing only an infield single, which allowed Villanova to get to work on offense right away. Senior centerfielder Jamie O'Hara continued her hot start to the season with a bunt single to third base and proceeded to steal her first bag of the year. Senior leftfielder Tessa Braga advanced O'Hara to third base with a ground ball, and senior Kristi Burlin followed with a walk in her first plate appearance this season. The Wildcats then used effective base running to steal a run from the Chippewas. Burlin broke for second base and the catcher threw straight to second, but the throw was slightly off line and went into center field, allowing O'Hara to score to give Villanova a 1-0 lead at the end of the first inning.
Central Michigan responded in the top half of the second inning with a run of their own on the strength of three hits. A lead-off double followed by a one-out single put runners at the corners with one out. Delahaba then received some help from her battery mate, junior catcher Amanda Marquez, who gunned down the runner trying to steal second for the second out of the inning. However, Central Michigan designated player Karly Hansen came through with a 2-out RBI single to tie the game 1-1 heading to the bottom of the second.
Marquez started the Wildcat second with a line drive up the middle for a single and was advanced to second base with two outs by junior right fielder Julie Smith on a well-placed sacrifice bunt, but a sharp ground out to third base by sophomore shortstop Ali Lowe ended the threat.
Delahaba worked through a quick third inning with two strikeouts and retired the Chippewas on a foul out to Braga in left to end the inning after freshman second baseman Briana Fujii nearly made a great diving play on an eventual 2-out infield single. For the Wildcats in the third, Braga managed a one-out bunt single but was cut-down trying to steal on a strike out by Burlin to end the third inning with the score still tied at 1-1 as the pitchers settled in.
In the top of the fourth for the second straight inning, Delahaba had two strikeouts wrapped around a flyout for her first 1-2-3 inning of the day as she looked sharp in the circle through four innings.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, junior first baseman Valerie Ortega roped a lead-off double (her 4th of the season) into the right center gap to put a runner in scoring position for the Wildcats with nobody out. Senior designated player Molly Manning followed that with a single through the left side to put runners on the corners. Freshman pinch runner Beth Smetana came on for Manning and stole second to put two runners in scoring position with no outs for the best Wildcat scoring opportunity of the day. Marquez took advantage of the opportunity with her second straight line drive single up the middle to score Ortega and give Villanova a 2-1 lead. With runners still at the corners, freshman pinch hitter Beth Smetana battled Chippewa pitcher Chelsea Sundberg through a 9-pitch at bat and eventually came through with a sacrifice fly to center field to extend Villanova's lead to 3-1. With two outs and Marquez still at first, Lowe produced an infield single to continue the Villanova threat, but an O'Hara groundout ended the inning with Villanova holding a two run edge.
After retiring four consecutive hitters, Delahaba faced a lead-off single in the fifth followed by a sacrifice bunt which gave Central Michigan an opportunity to inch closer. Centerfielder Macy Merchant then ripped a hard ground ball to Ortega at first base that glanced off her glove and allowed the runner to score to cut the Villanova lead to 3-2. Another Chippewa single put runners on first and second with one out, but Delahaba worked her way out of the jam with her sixth strikeout and a fly out to Smith in right field as the Wildcats headed to the late innings with a one-run advantage.
In their half of the fifth, Villanova got a two-out bunt single from Valerie Ortega, but were unable to sustain the rally after a strikeout by Chippewa pitcher Chelsea Sundberg ended the inning.
Central Michigan continued to apply the pressure on the Villanova defense in the top of the sixth as a lead-off single started the Chippewa rally. They attempted to move the runner to second on a sacrifice, but Burlin made a nice play to nail the runner at second base. A one-out line drive single then put runners on first and second with one out, but Delahaba used her defense again to work out of a tough jam. On back-to-back batters, Fujii and Lowe each snagged line drives to hold on to the one-run Villanova lead.
After Villanova went in order in the bottom of the sixth, Caitlyn Delahaba went to the circle with the chance to close out a victory for the Wildcats and put herself in the record books with the most complete games in Villanova history against the top of the Central Michigan order. Just like the previous two innings, the Chippewas got their leadoff runner on by bunt single, but Delahaba helped herself by gunning the runner down on the next batter's sacrifice bunt attempt for the first out of the inning. Pinch hitter Chelsea DeLamielleure then lofted a soft pop up behind Marquez, and she flipped off the mask to make the catch and second out of the inning. With two outs and a runner on first, Central Michigan first baseman Molly Coldren stepped to the plate as the Chippewas last hope and lofted a fly ball to center field which O'Hara squeezed for the 3-2 Villanova win.
Delahaba wrote herself into the record books with the complete game effort as it was her 58th in her Villanova career. She passes former Wildcat standout Kerri Stoller on the all-time complete game list with her effort with just under a full season left to play. Delahaba went seven innings, surrendering ten hits, one earned run, while striking out six and walking none in the record-setting performance.
Offensively, the crucial two-run rally in the bottom of the fourth inning proved to be the difference in the game on the strength of Marquez's RBI single and Smetana's sacrifice fly.
Villanova looks to make it a two game-winning streak to start the USF Under Armour Invitational when they take on Central Arkansas later this evening.