April 14, 2012
PISCATAWAY, N.J. - The Villanova (27-16, 1-9) offense broke out with a 7-run, 13-hit attack to lead them to a 7-3 BIG EAST win over Rutgers (18-22, 7-8) in the second game of a weekend BIG EAST series. Senior pitcher Molly Manning (11-5) led the way on the mound and at the plate as she surrendered zero earned runs in a complete game effort and had three hits at the plate to lift the Wildcats to their first BIG EAST win of the year. With the three hits, Manning set her new personal single season high for hits in a season.
Senior Jamie O'Hara led off the game by getting hit by a pitch, but the next three hitters went down in order to end the top of the first. After trailing the entire first game, the Wildcats fell behind in the bottom of the first after the Scarlet Knights scored an unearned run on an RBI single by Jennifer Harabedian. Manning avoided further trouble with two strikeouts in the first inning as Rutgers led 1-0 early.
Manning got her first hit of the day to start the second inning and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by freshman right fielder Beth Smetana. Following a walk by junior catcher Amanda Marquez to put two runners on, the next two hitters grounded out to end the threat. Manning kept the Rutgers offense in check with a 1-2-3 inning in the second inning as she had retired four in a row.
In the third, O'Hara led off with a double and following a fly out, she was doubled off of second base on a line drive double play off the bat of junior first baseman Valerie Ortega as the Wildcats were still unable to push a run across against Abbey Houston. Manning kept pitching to contact effectively in the Rutgers' third as she had retired seven in a row through three innings to put Villanova in position to take the lead for good.
Villanova broke out with a five-run frame on five hits and two Scarlet Knight errors. Senior third baseman Kristi Burlin walked to start the inning and Manning hit her second single of the day to put two runners on with nobody out. After a fielder's choice, Marquez singled down the right field line to load the bases with one out. That's when freshman second baseman Briana Fujii gave the Wildcats their first lead with a 2-run double to score Manning and Smetana. Sophomore shorstop Ali Lowe followed next with an RBI single of her own to put the Wildcats up 3-1 with runners still on the corners. O'Hara came up next with an RBI single to push the Villanova advantage to 4-1. After a pop out for the second out of the inning, Ortega hit a groundball to third base that she was unable to handle and the shortstop then threw the ball away attempting to get Ortega which allowed Lowe to score for the 5th run of the inning and a 5-1 Villanova lead through three and a half innings.
Manning then went out in the bottom of the fourth and pitched a perfect shut down inning as she had now retired 10 straight hitters to maintain the Villanova advantage.
Villanova kept up the offensive pressure in the top of the fifth as Manning had her third hit of the day to lead off the inning. After a strikeout and fielder's choice, Fujii had her second hit of the day to put two runners on with two outs, but Lowe went down on strikes to end the frame. In the bottom of the fifth, Rutgers would fight back to make the game close again. Two singles and two strikeouts started the inning to put two runners on with two outs before an error by Lowe loaded the bases. Chandler Howard then delivered a 2-run single to pull Rutgers closer at 5-3, but Manning wiggled out of the jam with a foul pop out to Marquez to end the inning.
The Wildcats wasted no time getting the two runs back in the top of the sixth when senior left fielder Tessa Braga, Ortega, and Burlin hit back-to-back-to-back single to load the bases with one out. Manning then worked a walk to score Braga to push the Villanova lead to 6-3 and an RBI single by Smetana extended the advantage to 7-3 heading to the bottom of the sixth where Manning worked her fourth 1-2-3 inning of the day.
After the Wildcats couldn't add any more insurance runs, Villanova needed just three more outs to wrap up the win. A fly out to right field started the inning before Manning issued a one-out walk. The next hitter then hit a line drive to Lowe at shorstop and she snared the liner and threw to Ortega at first to double off the runner and end the game with Villanova on top.
The Wildcats will look to win their first BIG EAST series of the year with a win tomorrow in the series finale beginning at noon.