April 25, 2013
EASTON, Pa - Freshman Kate Poppe (Downingtown, Pa./Bishop Shanahan High School) became just the ninth pitcher in Villanova softball history to toss a no-hitter and in the process established a new school record with 20 strikeouts over 10 innings in pitching the Wildcats to a 2-0 victory over Lafayette in the first game of a doubleheader played here today.
Valerie Ortega had three hits for the Wildcats in the opener, including a critical RBI double in the 10th inning that gave Villanova all the cushion Poppe would need.
The Wildcats then completed the sweep with a 4-3 triumph in nine innings in the second game of the twinbill, paced by the hitting of Ali Lowe and the pitching of Kaity Sitzman. VU improved to 18-26 overall on the season while Lafayette falls to 11-37 overall.
Poppe set the tone of the afternoon early as she struck out the first three Lafayette hitters she faced in the opening frame of the first of the two contests.
That pattern would continue into the late innings as the two hurlers, Poppe for the Wildcats and Bryn Gornick for the Leopards, traded zeroes. In fact, the only hit through the first five innings came off of the bat of Wildcat first baseman Ortega when she singled in the fourth.
The contest remained scoreless after five innings.
A Villanova bid with two outs in the sixth inning was snuffed out when, after a walk to center fielder Shea Palmer, she was cut down trying to steal second base to end the Wildcats' half of the sixth.
Poppe, meanwhile, kept Lafayette in check without surrendering a hit. The only base runners for the Leopards through six innings came on a hit by pitch in the third inning and a Wildcat error in the sixth. The contest remained scoreless into the seventh inning.
Ortega picked up her second base hit of the day, a single to left field, with one out in the seventh. She moved up to second when Beth Smetana delivered another single to left, setting the `Cats up with their most promising scoring bid to this point of the day. Third baseman Brianna Fujii flied out to right field, allowing Ortega to tag up and move over to third base with two down in the inning.
Gornick, however, induced Sierra McConnell to ground out and the bid was turned away. Poppe then returned to the circle and set the Leopards down in order in the bottom of the inning to send the contest to extra frames.
The Wildcats again picked up consecutive singles in the eighth inning, with Taylor Olafson and Palmer reaching base with two outs. But Gornick was again able to escape trouble by getting Lowe on a foul out.
Poppe fanned the side again in the eighth inning. When she set down on Alish Hogan on strikes for the final out of the inning it was her 17th of the day. That snapped the previous single game mark for a Wildcat previously established by Keri Stoller in 2001 against Binghamton and Theresa Hornick in 2002 against Princeton.
Smetana reached base with a one-out single in the ninth and the Wildcats loaded the bases with two outs when Julie Smith delivered a single. But Gornick escaped again, this time courtesy of a ground out. Poppe again took care of the Leopards in the bottom of the ninth and it was on to the tenth.
The Wildcats generated the game's first run with two out in the bottom of the tenth after a bunt single by Palmer was followed by a clutch double off the bat of Ortega. Ortega then scored on a Leopard error on a ball put into play by Smetana and the Cats owned a 2-0 lead.
Poppe (16-19) went back to work in the bottom of the 10th against the heart of the Lafayette order, fanning Jordan Parsons and Alison Brown for strikeouts number 19 and 20 before getting Stephanie Schreiber to fly out to left field to wrap up the first no-hitter of her college career. She becomes the ninth Wildcat to toss a no-hitter.
The Wildcats jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in game two. Lowe got the rally started with a single and stolen base. Ortega doubled Lowe home and later scored on a Lafayette error to give the Cats a two run margin.
Kaity Sitzman was nearly as stingy as Poppe had been in the opener, allowing just one hit over the first four innings.
Meanwhile, Villanova picked up another run in the third inning when Lowe smacked a double and was brought home by another two-bagger, this one off the bat of Smetana.
Lafayette got its first run of the day in the fifth inning when it put together three hits to load the bases. A wild pitch then allowed Kristen Burger to score but Seitzman ended the rally there and the Wildcats returned to the dugout with a 3-1 edge after five innings of action.
That was the score until the bottom of the seventh inning, when the Leopards came up with a pair of runs to tie the game after Villanova had recorded the first two outs of the inning. Back to back doubles by Berger and Hogan were among the key blows for Lafayette as it scored two unearned runs to force extra frames.
Julie Smith got the ninth inning started for VU with a single before giving way to pinch-runner Kera Pezzuti. Pezzuti moved up to second base on a successful sacrifice and then stole third base and came around to score on a throwing error by Lafayette shortstop by Brittany Paul. The Leopards then were retired in order on three ground outs in the bottom of the ninth to give Villanova the sweep.
Sitzman earned her second victory in three days while Melissa Robinson absorbed the loss for Lafayette.
Villanova travels to Providence on Saturday for a doubleheader that begins at noon and follows that with a single game against the Friars on Sunday at noon.