March 3, 2012
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Villanova (5-3) led Hampton (4-6) by a score of 2-1 heading into the 5th inning of a tight ball game, but the Wildcats exploded for nine unanswered runs in the final three frames to put the Pirates away by a score of 11-1 for their third straight win at the USF Under Armour Invitational. Senior Caitlyn Delahaba earned the win on the mound for the second straight day and the Wildcat offense collected fourteen hits.
After being the home team the first two games, the Wildcats had the chance to bat first and they took advantage. Senior left fielder Tessa Braga singled and stole second with one out and came around to score on an RBI single by senior third baseman Kristi Burlin (31 RBIs in 2011) for an early 1-0 Villanova lead. After a fielder's choice by junior first baseman Valerie Ortega, senior designated player Molly Manning hit a single that moved Ortega to third. Following a walk to junior catcher Amanda Marquez, senior Shannon O'Brien stepped to the plate. With O'Brien batting, the Pirate catcher attempted to pick off Ortega at third and the throw went wide allowing Ortega to come home and score for an early 2-0 lead.
Hampton struck back in the bottom of the first on the strength of a solo home run from their designated player, but that would be the only offense Hampton would have all day. Delahaba established herself early by striking out the side in the first inning.
In the second inning, senior center fielder Jamie O'Hara extended her season-starting hitting streak to eight games with a two-out single, but she was stranded at second after a stolen base (her 2nd of the season). In the bottom of the second, Delahaba continued to cruise by sitting down the Pirates in order including two more strikeouts.
Villanova was unable to take advantage of a hit batter to start the third inning, but Delahaba kept Hampton off the scoreboard despite two singles from the Pirates. The senior pitcher helped herself defensively by making a nice play on a bunt back to her when she fielded it and got the lead runner at second base.
In the top of the fourth, O'Brien started the inning with a walk and the Wildcats were threatening again before they hit some bad luck. With sophomore shortstop Ali Lowe batting, O'Brien took off for second and Lowe hit a bullet to left field, but the Pirate left fielder charged in and caught the line drive before throwing to first to double off O'Brien. In the bottom of the fourth for the second straight inning, the Pirates got their lead off batter on to start the inning, but two nice plays by Burlin at third followed by a come backer to Delahaba ended the inning with Villanova still nursing a 2-1 advantage.
In the fifth inning, the Wildcats finally broke through with their biggest run output in any inning this year. Jamie O'Hara started the rally with an infield single for her second hit of the day. The hit gave O'Hara her fifth multi-hit game of the season. Braga followed with a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt that moved O'Hara into scoring position. O'Hara then swiped her second bag of the day at third base before Burlin was hit for the second consecutive plate appearance. With Ortega then at the plate with runners on the corners and one out, the Pirate catcher attempted to pick O'Hara off at third base and again her throw sailed into left field. O'Hara came home and freshman pinch runner advanced to 2nd base as Villanova now held a 3-1 edge. Pezzuti advanced to third on a passed ball as Ortega walked to again put runners at first and third with one out. Manning then executed a perfect squeeze play as Pezzuti slid in safely and Manning advanced all the way to second base with the Wildcats leading 4-1. Amanda Marquez then stepped in with two runners in scoring position and hit a hard ground ball that the third baseman handled, but her errant throw allowed Ortega and Manning to score and Villanova led 6-1. Lowe capped the inning and the starting pitcher's day as Villanova led 7-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth.
Delahaba's (3-2) day was done after the offensive outburst. She went four innings, surrendering four hits, one earned run while striking out six and walking none for the second straight start.
Sophomore pitcher Kaity Sitzman came on in relief and built off of her strong effort from her last outing against South Carolina. She allowed one hit, one walk, and had one strikeout in two scoreless innings of relief.
In the seventh, the Wildcats erupted yet again with four runs on five hits. Manning started the inning with her third hit of the day, followed by back-to-back singles from freshmen Beth Smetana and Elise Samoy Alvarado to load the bases. It was Smetana's third hit in the last two games and Alvarado's first collegiate hit in her first at bat. Following a fielder's choice, freshman Briana Fujii delivered a two-run double off of the left-center field fence that extended the Villanova lead to 9-1. The hit was Fujii's first as a Wilcat along with her first RBIs. O'Hara then stayed hot with her fourth hit on the day that scored Lowe and Fujii and the Wildcats led 11-1.
In the bottom of the seventh, junior pitcher Adrienne Drummond came on to close the game out. It was the first time she was on the mound since 2010 and she threw a scoreless inning of relief with just a walk to wrap up the Villanova 11-1 win.
The win is Villanova's third in a row and coach DiBernardi's 696th of her career at Villanova.
The Wildcat offense has been potent early on (.387, 18 runs in last 3 games), but the pitching has also been effective. In the circle, Villanova pitchers are 3-0 with a 0.67 ERA and 18 strikeouts to just 4 walks in the last three games.