March 10, 2012
CLEARWATER, Fla. - Trailing 2-0 heading into the bottom of the second, Villanova scored seven unanswered runs from the second to the fifth innings to take control of the game as the Wildcats beat the Toledo Rockets (5-13) by a score of 7-2 for their 9th straight win at the USF Under Armour Invitational. Senior pitcher Molly Manning (5-1) earned her fourth straight win in the circle while adding a home run at the plate and the Villanova offense pounded out nine hits with senior Jamie O'Hara, senior Tessa Braga, and junior Valerie Ortega each collecting two hits a piece. The 9-game win streak is the team's first since the final 9 regular season games of the 2010 season.
Manning was looking to build off of her two-hit shutout over Cleveland State, but ran into some trouble early, but her defense helped her escape the first inning unscathed. A one-out single was the Rockets first runner of the day, but junior Amanda Marquez threw the would-be base stealer out for her seventh caught base stealer on the season. The Rockets would add another single before Manning caught a pop up to end the inning. In the bottom of the first, senior third baseman Kristi Burlin walked with two outs and Ortega reached by a catcher's interference, but Manning grounded out to end the threat.
In the top of the second, the Rockets got on the board to take the early lead. A lead-off single and a one-out walk put two runners on with one out and the next hitter delivered an RBI double down the left field line to bring home the first run of the day. A sacrifice fly by the next hitter pushed across the second run of the game as Toledo led 2-0 going to the bottom of the second.
Villanova wasted no time responding to their first deficit of the weekend by tying the game almost immediately. Freshman second baseman Briana Fujii continued her red-hot tournament run as she doubled to right field to lead off the inning. Marquez then stepped to the plate and hit a sharp groundball that the shortstop booted as Villanova was in business with runners on the corners and nobody out. Sophomore shortstop Ali Lowe then struck a sacrifice fly to left field to bring home Fujii and Villanova cut the deficit in half at 2-1. Braga then got her first hit of the day to advance Marquez to second with one out before O'Hara singled to center field to load the bases. It was O'Hara's 14th straight game with a hit. A passed ball then allowed Marquez to score as Villanova had tied the game at 2-2.
With the game tied going to the third, Manning again received defensive help to keep the score locked at 2. With one out, Lani Ernst drove a ball to the right center gap for a triple and the go-ahead run stood at third base. The next hitter struck a ground ball to Ortega at first and Ernst wandered too far from the third base, so Ortega threw to Marquez who threw to Burlin for the tag out of Ernst for the second out of the inning. The next hitter then hit a single and Tessa Braga threw the runner out trying to go from first to third to end the inning with the game still tied.
In the bottom of the third, Ortega hit her team-leading sixth double of the year to lead off the frame and she came around quickly on a groundout by Manning to first base as Villanova took a lead 3-2 after three innings.
In the fourth inning, Manning had her shortest inning of the outing to date and collected her first strikeout to get around a one-out hit batter. With the senior pitcher settling down, Villanova got to work offensively to build upon their lead.
Lowe struck a double to the left center gap and Braga followed with a bunt single to put runners on the corners with nobody out. O'Hara then singled up the middle for the second straight at bat to score Lowe as Villanova now led 4-2 and had just knocked their starting pitcher from the game. Following a pop out and strikeout, Ortega delivered a knock out blow by roping her second straight double (7th of the season) to right field to score both runners as Villanova now held a 6-2 advantage after four innings.
After getting her first significant lead of the day, Manning found a groove and retired the Rockets after allowing just a two-out single in the fifth. Manning did all the work offensively in the fifth when she stepped in and delivered her first home run of the season to left field. It was the senior's 7th career home run as a Wildcat and Villanova held a 7-2 advantage after five.
In the sixth, Marquez showed off her arm yet again in throwing out her eighth base stealer of the season. A one-out single put a runner on first, but Marquez ensured that she would not advance any further by throwing her out and ending any Toledo plans of a comeback. Manning went six innings for the win, surrendering eight hits, and two runs while striking out two and walking one.
Freshman Ali Angelbello came on in relief to wrap the game up in her third career appearance. She pitched a scoreless seventh with one strikeout and one hit batter. She has now worked three consecutive scoreless innings as Villanova took their 9th straight victory overall and at the USF Under Armour Invitational by a score of 7-2.
Villanova will look to make it 10 wins in a row tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. against Bradley. The 10-game winning streak would be the longest in the program since an 11-game win streak from April 22-May 2, 2003.
NOTES: In their 9-game winning streak, Villanova pitchers are 9-0 with a 0.79 ERA in 62 innings in the circle...They have 44 strikeouts compared to 14 walks while surrendering just 57 hits...During the streak, the Wildcats have outscored their opponents by a score of 57-13...The team is hitting .355 during that stretch.