March 9, 2012
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Villanova (8-3) came into the game riding a five-game winning streak and senior Molly Manning ensured that the streak would reach six games with a two-hit shut out performance that set the tone for a 8-0 victory over Cleveland State (2-13) at the USF Under Armour Invitational. Manning (4-1) was outstanding in throwing her sixth career shutout and won her third straight start. The offense was very effective, especially late in a 5-run seventh, in pounding out twelve hits. Junior first baseman Valerie Ortega led the way for the offense with four hits.
The Wildcats wasted little time in getting out front, as they have been doing during their winning streak. Senior third baseman Kristi Burlin worked a two-out walk then moved into scoring position on Ortega's first hit of the day. Manning then helped herself with an RBI single that scored Burlin and Villanova took a 1-0 lead over the Vikings into the bottom of the first.
Manning started out the game on fire in the circle, and it was very well-needed as the offense went cold for the middle innings of the game. Manning sent the Vikings down in order in the first four innings of the game as she was cruising early. She worked four groundouts, six flyouts, and two strikeouts as she was effectively pitching to contact as she frequently does during her most successful outings. The defense was stout behind her and the senior hurler did her best to keep Villanova out front.
Offensively, the Wildcats had a two-out single from sophomore shortstop Ali Lowe in the second and another two-out single from Ortega in the third, but both times the next hitter was retired. The Wildcats went in order in the top of the fourth, but they finally added some insurance in the fifth.
With Manning working so efficiently in the circle, the Wildcats were able to break through and extend the lead in the top of the fifth. Senior center fielder Jamie O'Hara extended her hitting streak to 11 games with a one-out single then stole second base to get herself into scoring position. Then with two outs and two runners on, Ortega collected her third hit of the day to drive in O'Hara and extend Villanova's advantage to 2-0.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Vikings got their first hit and runner off of Manning with a two-out double, but Manning quickly ended any ideas of a rally by inducing a pop-out to Burlin at third.
Villanova used more effective offense to extend their advantage in the top of the sixth. Freshman second baseman Briana Fujii built upon her great opening weekend at the Under Armour Invitational with a one-out double and was advanced to third on a single by junior right fielder Julie Smith. With runners on the corners and one out, Lowe lofted a sacrifice fly to left field that brought home Fujii and the Wildcats led 3-0 through five and a half.
Manning allowed a a one-out single in the bottom of the sixth, but she kept up her stellar pitching performance with a strikeout and flyout to Smith in right.
In the top of the seventh, Villanova put the game away and ensured that Cleveland State would not rally late by putting five runs on the board to secure the win. Senior left fielder singled to open the inning and she advanced to second on a one-out single by Ortega, her fourth of the day. Then with two outs and the bases loaded, Fujii had yet another two-run single to score Braga and Ortega and Villanova held a 5-0 edge. Smith then added a second consecutive single herself to grow Villanova's lead to 6-0. Following a Lowe walk to re-load the bases with two outs, O'Hara reached on a fielding error by the second baseman where Fujii and Smith came around to score to arrive at 8-0.
Manning polished off a two-hit gem with a a quick seventh where she worked around a one-out walk to lock down Villanova's sixth consecutive victory. She added five strikeouts to the performance in what was the Wildcats' second shutout in their last three games. In her three starts since a tough opening weekend, Manning is 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 18 innings with 11 strikeouts and just four walks.