May 5, 2013
VILLANOVA, Pa. - The Villanova softball team (21-31, 3-19 BIG EAST) finished off the 2013 season with a thrilling 5-4 victory over the visiting St. John's Red Storm (17-35-1, 7-15 BIG EAST) on Sunday afternoon. Senior right fielder Julie Smith (Dana Point, Calif.) hit a walk-off single to right field with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to give Villanova their 21st victory of the season. In the win, freshman pitcher Kate Poppe (Downingtown, Pa.) broke the single season record for innings pitched with 237 2/3 innings pitched.
The Wildcats were leading 4-3 in the seventh before St. John's battled back with a run to tie the game and set up Smith's heroics in the bottom of the inning. Senior catcher Amanda Marquez (Miami, Fla.) hit a one-out double and sophomore pinch runner Kera Pezzuti (Montville, N.J.) moved to third on an infield single by junior shortstop Ali Lowe (West Palm Beach, Fla.). Following a pop out, Smith lined a 1-1 pitch over the second baseman's head for the walk-off win.
Marquez and Lowe were difficult outs at the top of the Villanova lineup and each had three hits in the game. They combined to go 6-for-8 with two runs scored and one driven in for the game. Marquez finishes the season with a team-best .313 batting average, while Lowe came on particularly strong in conference play and finishes the year with a .304 average.
For the first time in the series, the Wildcats grabbed the early lead. Marquez, Lowe, and senior first baseman Valerie Ortega (Ventura, Calif.) started the bottom of the first with back-to-back-to-back singles to load the bases with nobody out. Following a strikeout, Beth Smetana delivered a two-run single up the middle as Villanova was on top 2-0 through one inning.
The Wildcats extended their lead to 3-0 in the second on a two-out single off the bat of Marquez. Her second hit of the game scored senior second baseman Taylor Olafson (Jacksonville, Fla.) who reached on a fielder's choice and stole second base with two outs.
Following two first-inning, two-out singles, Poppe (19-23, 2.56 ERA) would retire the next nine in a row to silence the Red Storm bats until a two-out double in the fourth, but the freshman would keep St. John's off the scoreboard by getting a pop out to Ortega to end the inning.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Wildcats had a chance to extend their lead as they had two runners in scoring position with one out after back-to-back singles by sophomore third baseman Briana Fujii (San Jose, Calif.) and freshman center fielder Shea Palmer (Scottsdale, Ariz.) coupled with a throwing error, but a groundout and pop up ended the inning with Villanova still leading 3-0.
The Red Storm mounted their first scoring threat in the top of the fifth as they loaded the bases with one out on two walks and a double. St. John's would finally get on the board as Yvonne Rericha hit a double just out of the reach of Smith in right field to score two runs and trim the Villanova lead to 3-2. One batter later, Erin Burner hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game through the top of the fifth.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Wildcats broke the 3-3 tie by manufacturing a run. Lowe led off with a single to left-center and moved to second a sacrifice bunt by Ortega. Lowe then showed some good base running by moving to third on a wild pitch and barely avoiding a tag at the plate on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Smith to give Villanova the lead back.
Poppe allowed eight hits, walked three and struck out five in her 20th complete game of the season. In her first collegiate season she racked up 256 strikeouts in 45 games, including 36 starts. She pitched five shutouts, including a 10-inning no-hitter against Lafayette in which she set a school record with 20 strikeouts. Poppe's new single-season school record of 237 2/3 innings pitched surpasses the previous mark of 235.0 innings set by Shannon Williams in 2004.