April 17, 2012
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Villanova (27-18, 1-10) stormed back late with a three run seventh and brought the tying run to the plate, but St. Joseph's (16-22, 5-5) held on for a 5-3 victory in a mid-week non-conference tilt at the Villanova Softball Field. The Wildcats had a solid effort from senior starting pitcher Caitlyn Delahaba, but their offense was slow early on before it came alive late to put pressure on the Hawks.
Delahaba came out throwing well picking up a strikeout as she only surrendered a two-out bunt single to get out of the first inning unscathed which the Wildcats were unable to do in the weekend series at Rutgers. Villanova had the tough task of facing St. Joe's top hurler in Erin Gallagher and she retired the Wildcats in order to send the game to the second inning scoreless.
In the top of the second, Nicole Palase started the inning with a bloop double down the right field line that was just out of the outstretched arm of freshman second baseman Briana Fujii, and Palase was advanced to third base on a successful sacrifice bunt with one out. Delahaba then got a big pitcher's out with a sharp groundball that junior first baseman Valerie Ortega fielded and got the runner at first without Palase advancing. Delahaba escaped the jam without giving up any runs when she got a groundball back to the mound that she scooped up and threw to first for the final out of the inning.
After Gallagher retired the Wildcats on three straight groundballs, the Hawks had a one-out single in the top of the third off the bat of Dana Parks. Melissa Ruf then hit a line drive to centerfield that went in and out of senior Jamie O'Hara's glove, but she quickly picked up the ball and forced out Parks at second base for the second out of the inning. After a single put runners on the corners, Delahaba struck out the next hitter to retire the side with the game still locked at 0-0. The Wildcats had their first runner reach base when sophomore shortstop Ali Lowe reached on a throwing error, but she was caught trying to steal second base to end the third inning.
Nicole Palase started the Hawks' fourth with a single, but she was quickly erased on a fine double play turned by Lowe at short as she fielded the ball and fired to first for the first two outs of the inning. Following a two out single, Delahaba got a groundout to end the inning and keep St. Joe's off the scoreboard.
In the Wildcat fourth, O'Hara got the first Wildcat hit on the day with a bloop double to left field and she moved to third base on a groundout to the pitcher by senior left fielder Tessa Braga for the first out of the inning. However, Gallagher stranded O'Hara at third base by getting back-to-back groundouts to end the inning as the pitcher's duel moved to the fifth. With the hit to lead off the inning, O'Hara established a new season-high for base hits in a season with 49.
In the top of the fifth, the Hawks finally broke the scoreless tie as they started the inning with back-to-back singles, but a bunt pop out that was squeezed by senior third baseman Kristi Burlin was the first out of the inning. Bernadette Moran then hit a groundball to Fujii at second base and she fielded it cleanly and flipped to second base, but Dana Parks beat the throw there as the Hawks had loaded the bases with just one out. Fujii then quickly redeemed herself when Lauren Rendon hit a hard line drive between first and second base and the freshman second baseman ranged to her left and snagged the liner as she fell to the ground for the second out of the inning. Nicole Palase then stepped and delivered a 3-run bases clearing triple down the right field line to give St. Joe's a 3-0 lead heading to the bottom of the fifth.
In the bottom of the fifth, Villanova had a two-out base runner reach when junior catcher Amanda Marquez was hit by a pitch, but Fujii popped out to end the inning as Gallagher was working very effectively against the Wildcat lineup.
Senior Molly Manning came on in relief in the sixth inning as she tried to keep Villanova within striking distance, but the Hawks got a two-out RBI single off the bat of Dana Parks to extend the Villanova deficit to 4-0. Melissa Ruf then skied a ball to left field that Braga was unable to handle as Parks scored for the 5th St. Joe's run of the day. Delahaba came back on to get out of the jam and she did just that by inducing a fly out to freshman right fielder Elise Samoy Alvarado to end the inning.
Villanova came to the plate in the sixth inning looking to get something going, but Hawks' reliever Taryn Ashway retired the Wildcats in order to maintain the 5-run lead heading to the final frame.
Delahaba retired the Hawks in order in the seventh as the Wildcats had one last chance to get back in the game. Villanova tried to take advantage of some hits in the seventh as their offense had struggled much of the day. Ortega started the inning with a double and moved to third base on a single from senior third baseman Kristi Burlin. Ashway then uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Ortega to score to cut the deficit to 5-1. Manning then delivered yet another RBI hit with a double to the left center gap to score freshman pinch runner Molly Manning. After a fly out, Marquez hit an RBI single down the left field line that scored sophomore pinch runner Danielle Lewandowski to make it just 5-3 with Marquez on second base. Fujii stepped to the plate as the tying run, but went down on strikes as Erin Gallagher came back into the game. Gallagher then retired senior pinch hitter Shannon O'Brien on a groundout to hold on for a 5-3 St. Joe's victory.
Delahaba (14-11) went six and a third innings of solid work in the circle giving up three runs while striking out three.
Villanova will get back into BIG EAST play this weekend as they host St. John's in the Score for a Cure program beginning Saturday.