March 27, 2012
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Villanova (21-6) broke a 4-4 tie in the 5th inning on an RBI single by junior first baseman Valerie Ortega in a 5-4 victory over Delaware (5-27-1) to sweep the day's doubleheader against the Blue Hens. Senior pitcher Molly Manning (9-2) earned the complete game win on the mound with four strikeouts and also had two hits and two RBIs at the plate. The win is the fourth in a row for the Wildcats and third of the season over Delaware.
Manning struggled a little bit early as the Blue Hens seemed to have her timed well. Third baseman Jessica Grisler led off the game with a double in the gap and was moved to third on a sacrifice bunt, but Manning avoided giving up an early run by getting back-to-back groundouts to end the top of the first. As in the first game, Villanova got on the board early to put the pressure on the Blue Hens. Junior catcher Amanda Marquez walked to start the inning and senior center fielder Jamie O'Hara had her first of two hits in the game to put two runners on with nobody out. Ortega then hit a groundball up the middle that glanced off the pitcher's glove to load the bases with no outs. Manning then helped herself in a big way by singling up the middle to score Marquez and O'Hara as Villanova led 2-0. Manning and Ortega moved up a base on the attempted throw home to get O'Hara which allowed freshman right fielder Beth Smetana to hit a sacrifice fly that scored Ortega for the third run of the inning.
Delaware did not stay down long, however, as they continued to get good swings on Manning in the second. A foul out started the inning, but Delware then strung together four consecutive hits to get the game closer. A double followed by two singles made it 3-1 before a double by Rachel Jones cut the Villanova lead in half at 3-2. Manning then induced a fly out with two runners on, but Alicea Coy put the Blue Hens in front with the fourth double of the game by the visitors to put Villanova in front 4-3 through an inning and a half.
Villanova did not let Delware hold the lead for long as they fought back to tie the game in the bottom of the second. Sophomore shortstop Ali Lowe singled up the middle, which chased starting pitcher Hannah Rust. Senior left fielder Tessa Braga greeted reliever Chenxi Jiao with an field single and both runners advanced on wild pitches with on out to put two runners in scoring position. O'Hara then executed well by hitting a soft groundball to third base that Jessica Grisler was unable to handle, allowing Lowe to score to even the game at 4-4 through just two innings of play.
After struggling to find her groove, Manning went on to retire the next 11 hitters. She started by striking out three of four hitters from the last out of the second through her perfect third inning, which also included a great running catch at the fence by O'Hara in center field. For Villanova, Manning led off the inning with a single, but freshman designated player Kera Pezzuti was thrown out stealing to squash any rally.
In the fourth, Manning and Jiao both sent the opponent down in order as the game moved to the fifth with the score still deadlocked.
Manning continued her dominance in the fifth with two flyouts and a pop out, which gave the offense a chance to get in front for good. O'Hara led off and with an infield single to third base and Grisler made an off target throw to first which allowed O'Hara to get in scoring position with nobody out. Ortega wasted no time when she ripped an RBI single down the right field line to put Villanova in front 5-4 . Manning and the defense would have to hold the one-run lead through the final two innings.
After retiring her 11th hitter in a row to start the sixth, Gina Knutson reached on an infield single. With Delaware gaining a little momentum, Kaitlyn Breneman hit a line drive back through the middle that Manning snared. She then threw to Ortega at first to double off Knutson to end the top of the sixth with Villanova still in front by one.
Villanova went down quickly in the sixth and the Blue Hens were down to their final three outs. Manning induced a pop out to junior second baseman Taylor Olafson and a fly out to freshman center fielder Elise Samoy Alvarado to start the inning with two quick outs. Rachel Jones then smacked her second double of the day to put the tying run in scoring position with two outs before Grisler skied a fly ball to center that Alvarado squeezed for the final out as the Wildcats won 5-4.
Manning went 7 innings for her 34th career complete game allowing eight hits, and four runs, while striking out four.
Villanova will look to sweep another doubleheader as they host Lafayette at 2:30 pm.
NOTES: With the hit today, Valerie Ortega now has 100 hits in her Villanova career...She joins Amanda Marquez, Molly Manning and Jamie O'Hara as other Wildcats who have eclipsed the 100-hit mark this season...Tessa Braga sits at 96 for her career...Delahaba and Manning combined to go 13 innings today without walking a batter...Coming into the week, Villanova was 13th (.339) nationally in batting average...Jamie O'Hara is 24th in the nation and second in the BIG EAST through last Sunday in batting average at .463.