March 9, 2012
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Villanova defeated USC Upstate (18-2) today 2-1 to give their head coach Maria DiBernardiher 700th career victory. The win is also Villanova's 7th straight as they move their record for the season to 9-3. DiBernardi becomes the 77th coach in collegiate softball history to accomplish the feat and 37th to have them all at the same school.
DiBernardi said, “I don’t know what to say, I’m just happy for the kids to be honest with you. It’s been on their minds and I think they really wanted to get this win, and I know they wanted to do it today. It was honestly one of the best games I’ve seen in a long time and I’m extremely proud of them. They played a great Upstate team that was 18-1 and had only given up four runs all year. I’m happy it’s out of the way so the kids can play loose again, but I’m especially happy that I got to share the moment with the team and my family.”
Maria DiBernardiis in her 28th season in her illustrious career as head coach at Villanova and has compiled a record of 700-580-10 (.543). She has spent her entire coaching career at the helm of the Villanova softball program and is the winningest coach in its history. Over the last few seasons, DiBernardi has been eclipsing significant milestones. She reached her 600th career win on April 22nd, 2007 against Providence, and her 650th career victory over North Florida on February 21st, 2010.
DiBernardi has experienced a great deal of success as head coach at Villanova. She has taken the team to 12 BIG EAST Tournaments since the event started in 1990 and reached the title game twice (1993, 2003), finishing as the runner-up both times. The team most recently went in 2010 where Villanova went as the No. 4 seed, but fell 4-3 in a tight first round matchup with No. 5 seed and eventual champion Syracuse.
DiBernardi has led the team to three 40+ win seasons in 1999, 2001, and 2002. She has also been very active within the conference as the president of the BIG EAST Softball Committee from 1997-2000.
In her 28 seasons, she has ensured tremendous academic success from her student-athletes in addition to the on-field triumphs. Through this philosophy, 60 players have been named to the BIG EAST All-Conference team for their playing performance and 166 have been named BIG EAST Academic All-Stars for their dedication in the classroom. Additionally, Villanova has had 51 NFCA Academic All-Americans since the 2000 season, 9 CoSIDA All-Americans, and 17 All-Region players since the 1997 season under DiBernardi's tutelage.
To reach the 700th win of DiBernardi's career, Villanova had to face a tough USC Upstate squad and grind out a tightly contested game. Senior Caitlyn Delahaba (5-2) led the way in the circle with her 60th complete game and fourth straight victory, while senior Jamie O'Hara got to 20 hits in just the 12th game of the year with three of Villanova's seven hits. Great defense by the Wildcats played a huge role in the victory as well with Villanova turning three double plays.
The Spartans had the first at bat of the day as the visiting team and got a single and sacrifice bunt to put a runner in scoring position. That's when junior catcher Amanda Marquez stepped up and threw the lead-off runner out trying to steal third base to end any sort of Spartan threat. In the bottom of the first, senior centerfielder Jamie O'Hara got the business of extending her hitting streak to twelve games out of the way with an infield single to shortstop. However, three straight pop outs, two of which were bunts, ended the inning.
Back-to-back one-out singles by the Spartans in the top of the second meant USC Upstate had their second straight scoring chance to start the game. The next hitter then lined a ball to freshman second baseman Briana Fujii and she snared the liner and doubled off the runner at second to end the inning. With the momentum from the big defensive play, Villanova struck in the bottom of the second to take the lead. Senior designated player Molly Manning reaching on a fielding error to start the frame, then was moved to second on a perfect sacrifice bunt by Fujii. Following a strikeout, junior catcher Amanda Marquez singled to the right-center gap to score Manning and Villanova grabbed a lead it would not relinquish.
Delahaba worked around a one-out walk in the third and O'Hara added her second hit of the day in the bottom of the third to lead off the inning, but the next three hitters were retired to end any sort of Villanova threat.
In the top of the fourth, the Spartans had the first two players reach by walk and error before they were both advanced to scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. The next hitter then stung a ball down the third base line and Burlin was there to grab the line drive and step on third to double off the runner with Villanova still ahead. Then, for the second time in the game, Villanova used the momentum a double play to put a run on the board themselves. Fujii roped a one-out double to right center field before freshman Kera Pezzuti came on to pinch run for her with freshman Beth Smetana stepping to the plate. The freshman right fielder continued the production start to her Villanova career with a single to center field that brought home Pezzuti for a 2-0 Villanova edge.
In the top of the fifth, the Spartans finally got on the board, but Villanova's defense prevented them from tying the game. A single, a hit batter, and a sacrifice bunt put two runners in scoring position with one out. The next USC Upstate hitter singled to center field to bring home one run, but sophomore shortstop Ali Lowe gunned the ball home to Marquez behind the plate to get the second runner trying to score. Then as the throw went home, the hitter attempted to advance to second when Marquez fired back to Lowe covering for an unconventional inning-ending double play.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, O'Hara hit a lead-off single (her third of the day), but was tagged out on a fielder's choice to end the inning. Each team garnered a single in the sixth (Fujii's second hit of the day), but neither produced any more offense or runners then that as the game headed to the seventh with the Wildcats up by just one run, hoping to get Coach DiBernardi her 700th win.
The Spartans had been able to generate some offense all day as a runner reached base in every inning, but Delahaba was not going to let that happen in the final frame. She induced a groundout to Lowe, a groundout to Ortega, and a final groundout to Lowe to wrap up the 2-1 Villanova victory and win No. 700 in the successful career of head coach Maria DiBernardi.
Villanova will look to build their win streak to eight games tomorrow with their first game starting at 9:15 a.m. against Wagner.