March 27, 2013
VILLANOVA, Pa. - In its 24th game of the season Villanova (11-13, 0-4 BIG EAST) finally played on its home field for the first time, where the Wildcats were defeated 8-2 by USF (25-11, 3-1 BIG EAST) in the opener of a three-game series at the Villanova Softball Complex on Wednesday afternoon. The teams will play a doubleheader on Thursday to complete the series.
After having the first four batters reach base safely in the bottom of the first inning Villanova was held to just one run in the frame and left the bases loaded. From that point on the Bulls rode the pitching of Sara Nevins (11-5, 1.24 ERA), as she pitched a five-hitter and struck out 10 in a complete game effort. USF scored two unearned runs in the top of the third inning and never relinquished the lead.
Junior shortstop Ali Lowe (West Palm Beach, Fla.) had two hits and a run scored for the Wildcats, while sophomore designated player Beth Smetana (San Diego, Calif.) and senior first baseman Valerie Ortega (Ventura, Calif.) each drove in runs.
On the mound freshman pitcher Kate Poppe (Downingtown, Pa.) struck out nine in six innings of work and was charged with seven runs allowed, although just four of them were earned on a day when Villanova committed six errors in the field.
It looked like the offense would get going early for the Wildcats when senior catcher Amanda Marquez (Miami, Fla.) and Lowe hit consecutive singles to start the bottom of the first inning. Smetana walked to load the bases and Ortega followed with an infield hit to give Villanova a 1-0 lead. Nevins settled down however, recording a strikeout for the first out of the inning and then inducing a groundball which led to a force out at the plate. A foul pop-up to first base ended the Wildcats threat with just the one run scoring.
Ashli Goff led off the top of the third inning for the Bulls and was safe at first on a throwing error, the first of two defensive miscues by Villanova in the inning. D'Anna Devine singled and Kourtney Salvarola was hit by a pitch to load the bases before Stephanie Medina's sacrifice fly was dropped for another error. Kenshyra Jackson followed the sacrifice fly with a run-scoring single that gave USF a 2-1 lead with the bases still loaded and still nobody out, but Poppe (11-5, 2.34 ERA) escaped further trouble with an infield pop-up and back-to-back strikeouts.
In the bottom of the fifth inning the Wildcats trialed 4-1 when Lowe drew a leadoff walk and Smetana followed with what appeared to be a two-run home run over the right-center field fence. On an appeal play it was ruled that Smetana had not touched home plate when rounding the bases and she was called out, with only Lowe's run counting.
That run narrowed the deficit to 4-2 but in the top of the sixth inning Salvarola hit her second home run of the game, a three-run shot with one out that was preceded by a fielding error. Salvarola had also hit a two-run shot off of Poppe in the top of the fourth inning.
Salvarola drove in five of her team's seven runs and Devine had three runs scored for the Bulls.
The doubleheader on Thursday afternoon begins at 11 a.m.