April 11, 2012
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Villanova (25-14, 0-8) held a 4-1 lead over No. 12 Louisville (35-2, 9-2) heading into the fifth inning, but the Cardinals scored seven runs in the final three innings combined to give them a lead they would not relinquish in an 8-4 win to sweep the mid-week BIG EAST doubleheader at the Villanova Softball Field. The Wildcats pounded out nine hits with seniors designated player Molly Manning and Jamie O'Hara having three apiece.
Louisville looked to get off to a fast start against senior Caitlyn Delahaba and did so with a single by Jennifer Esteban and she advanced to second on a fielding error. Kristin Austin then reached on a bunt single to put runners on the corners with nobody out. The Villanova defense then stepped up when Austin broke for second junior catcher Amanda Marquez threw her out attempting to steal. When Marquez threw to second, Esteban broke for home and after sophomore shortstop applied the tag on Austin at second, she fired home back to Marquez to tag out Esteban for an unorthodox double play. Delahaba tallied her first strikeout of the day to end the inning. The Wildcats had the tough task of facing Chelsea Leonard who came into the game at 7-0 and she sent Villanova 1-2-3 in the first to send the game to the second scoreless.
Delahaba continued to use the momentum from the big double play in the first inning as the game moved to the second. She got a ground out and a nice running catch from O'Hara for two quick outs in the second. Louisville then worked a walk and an infield single to put two runners on with two outs. The two runners then executed a double steal to put two runners in scoring position. Maggie Ruckenbrod lofted a pop up over Delahaba's head that freshman Briana Fujii fielded cleanly but her throw to first was not in time as Louisville took a 1-0 lead. The runner from second kept going on the play and junior first baseman Valerie Ortega threw to Marquez to nail the runner and end the inning.
In the bottom of the second, senior designated player Molly Manning hit a one-out single for the first Wildcat hit on the day, but she was gunned down attempting to move into scoring position. Freshman Beth Smetana and Marquez worked back-to-back two-out walks before Fujii was hit by a pitch on the foot to load the bases for two outs for Lowe. Lowe had a tough at bat, but Chelsea Leonard got her to chase a high fastball to end the second inning with the Cardinals holding the 1-0 lead.
Delahaba sent the Cardinals down in order in the top of the third and the Wildcats batted around on their way to taking the lead. O'Hara led off with a bunt single and Ortega hit a single through the right side with one out to put two runners on base. That's when senior third baseman Kristi Burlin delivered a 2-run double to the left-center gap to give the Wildcats their first lead of the day by a score of 2-1. Manning then reached on a throwing error by the shortstop to put runners at the corners with just one out. Leonard then uncorked a wild pitch to score freshman pinch runner Kera Pezzuti and give the Wildcats a 3-1 advantage as Manning moved to second base. The wild pitch also ended the day for pitcher Chelsea Leonard as Caralisa Connell came on in relief. Smetana greeted her with her second walk on the day to put two runners on, still with only one out. Marquez then delivered an RBI single of her own up the middle to score freshman pinch runner Danielle Lewandownski on a close play at the plate and Villanova led 4-1. Connell then settled in to get a groundout and strikeout to end the inning, but Villanova had taken the lead.
Armed with the lead, Delahaba had two strikeouts and a pop out to avoid any trouble from a one-out double off the bat of Alicja Wolny as the Wildcats looked to hold the lead into the late innings. In the bottom of the fourth, O'Hara started the inning with an infield single, her 12th multi-hit game of the year. After a strikeout, O'Hara moved to second on a groundout by Ortega, but Burlin popped out after following a lengthy at bat.
In the top of the fifth, Louisville mounted a rally to take the lead back in the back-and-forth affair. Kayla Soles reached on an error and quickly moved to third base after Maggie Ruckenbrod hit a double off the left field fence. With two runners in scoring position, Whitney Arion hit a rocket to third base that Burlin fielded on one bounce to hold the runners as she threw Arion out at first base for the first out of the inning. After a walk loaded the bases, Kristin Austin hit a groundball to shortstop that Lowe was unable to handle to keep the bases loaded and inch Louisville closer at 4-2. Delahaba then induced a groundout to Fujii for the second out of the inning, but another Louisville run scored to make it 4-3. After an intentional walk to Alicja Wolny to load the bases, Taner Fowler stepped to the plate and hit a double to the left-center gap that score two runs and when Wolny tried to score, a perfect relay from Tessa Braga to Lowe to Marquez to get the third out of the inning, but the Cardinals now had the 5-4 lead.
After losing their lead, Villanova fought back right away in the bottom of the fifth. Manning led off with her second hit of the day by singling through the right side and she advanced to second when Smetana walked for the third straight time. Manning was then erased on a fielder's choice hit by Marquez and the threat came to an end when Fujii hit a hard groundball that Katie Keller fielded and stepped on second before throwing to first to get the double play.
In the sixth, the Cardinals added some insurance runs when Whitney Arion hit a 2-run home run over the left field fence to give Louisville a 7-4 lead. Manning came in to get the final out of the inning to keep Villanova down just three runs heading to the bottom of the sixth.
Delahaba (13-9) went five and two-thirds innings while surrendering three earned runs on nine hits while striking out three and walking four.
In the bottom of the sixth, O'Hara tallied her third hit of the game with one out, but Villanova was unable to string hits together to cut into the lead.
Louisville added another insurance run in the seventh on an RBI single off the bat of Taner Fowler to put the Cardinal lead at 8-4 heading into Villanova's final at bat.
Manning added her third hit of the day in the bottom of the seventh against Tori Collins who came on in relief to start the sixth inning, but the Wildcats were unable to mount a serious rally as Louisville won by a score of 8-4.
The Wildcats will get right back to it tomorrow in a doubleheader at Monmouth starting at 3 p.m. The team will get back into conference play this weekend with a three-game set at Rutgers starting with doubleheader on Saturday.