April 11, 2012
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Villanova (25-13, 0-7) came into the mid-week doubleheader looking for a kick start to their BIG EAST schedule, but No. 12 Louisville (34-2, 8-2) hit two first inning home runs to get out to a 4-0 lead en route to a 7-0 win at the Villanova Softball Field. Senior pitcher Molly Manning was great in relief throwing two and two-thirds shutout innings and junior first baseman Valerie Ortega had two hits in game one of the doubleheader.
Louisville got the doubleheader started quickly as they raced out of the gates with a four-run first using the long ball against sophomore pitcher Kaity Sitzman (2-1). Back-to-back infield singles to start the inning sent Katie Keller to the plate where she delivered a three-run home run to right center field, her 5th of the season, and the Cardinals had a 3-0 lead. Sitzman retired the next hitter on a groundout before designated player Alicja Wolny hit a solo home run down the right field line to push the Cardinal advantage to 4-0. Freshman second baseman Briana Fujii and sophomore shortstop Ali Lowe both made nice plays on groundballs to close out the top of the first.
In the bottom of the first, senior left fielder Tessa Braga struck a one-out single to left center field and Ortega followed with an infield single, but Louisville pitcher Tori Collins induced a line out and fly out to end the inning with the Cardinals still holding the four-run advantage.
Senior pitcher Caitlyn Delahaba came on in relief of Sitzman in the second and made quick work of the Cardinals with a 1-2-3 inning including two more fine plays by Lowe at short, one deep in the hole and the other on a slow roller. After surrendering two hits in the first, Collins retired the side in order in the bottom of the second with Louisville leading 4-0.
The Cardinals got the offense going again in the third after a lead-off walk and single put two runners on with nobody out. Senior third baseman Kristi Burlin then snared a line drive for the first out of the inning before Louisville got back-to-back RBI singles from Alicja Wolny and Jordan Trimble for a 6-0 Louisville lead. A fielder's choice and pop out helped Delahaba escape further trouble in the third. Collins used the offensive momentum to keep the Wildcats off the board as she had now retired 8 Villanova hitters in a row.
In the top of the fourth, Delahaba got some good defensive help to get through a clean fourth. Braga made a great leaping grab on a hard hit ball to left field, and then Delahaba helped herself by fielding two comebackers as she cruised through an easy 1-2-3 frame. Villanova was looking to cut into the Louisville lead, but Collins kept them off the board with three straight outs through the air.
Sitzman re-entered the circle in the top of the fifth attempting to regain her perfect relief form from the weekend. Delahaba tossed three innings, surrendering three hits on two runs while walking one. Louisville got their offense going again in the fifth with two walks and a hit batter to load the bases with nobody out. Jordan Trimble then hit a low line drive to center field that senior Jamie O'Hara fielded on a bounce and forced the runner out at second base, but Louisville got a run on the play to go up 7-0 with runners on the corners and one out. Senior pitcher Molly Manning then came on in relief to wiggle out of the jam and did so with a pop out and a strikeout.
In the bottom of the frame, the Wildcats broke Collins' streak of hitters retired in a row when Fujii reached on a two-base error, but senior pinch Hitter Shannon O'Brien was called out on a borderline strike as the Cardinals continued to lead 7-0 through five innings.
Manning continued her stellar relief work into the sixth as she retired the Cardinals 1-2-3 to make it five straight for the senior hurler. In the Wildcat half of the inning, Ortega struck her second hit of the day with a single through the left side with two outs, but Burlin grounded out to end the inning.
Manning allowed her first hits on the day with back-to-back one out singles, but she avoided surrendering any runs with a fielder's choice and pop out to end the seventh. Manning threw two and two thirds shutout innings in relief giving up just two hits while striking out one.
Villanova had one last chance to push some runs across against Collins in the seventh. Manning started with a line out to right field, but freshman right fielder Beth Smetana hit her 4th double of the season off the left field wall to put a runner in scoring position with one out. Collins then induced back-to-back lineouts to end the game with a victory for Louisville.
Villanova will look to pick up a split of the doubleheader in game two.