May 6, 2005
VILLANOVA, Pa. - With Villanova's sixth consecutive trip to the conference championships on the line, senior Kari Koller (Rocklin, Calif.) blasted a three-run homerun to seal the Wildcats' come-from-behind victory over Pittsburgh in game two of a Big East doubleheader, and Villanova (38-23, 10-8) swept the Panthers (23-29, 8-8) by scores of 9-0 and 5-3 on Friday afternoon at the Villanova Softball Field. With the sweep, Villanova clinched the final playoff berth in the 2005 Big East Championship, which will be held from May 12-14, at the Belleville Softball Complex in South Bend, Ind.
The Wildcats wrapped up game one in five innings behind a grand slam from senior Allie Wisniewski (Smithtown, N.Y.), who ripped her team-high tenth homerun over the centerfield fence in the second inning. The round-tripper puts her one run shy of tying the school record for homeruns in a season, which Ricci Lugo set in 2002 with 11.
The inning started out with two quick outs for the Wildcats, who then scored eight runs off seven hits. Freshman Jackie Dempsey (Lexington, Mass.) ignited the offensive onslaught with a two-out single. Freshman Lisa Curran (Las Vegas, Nev.) immediately followed with another single. Sophomore Sheri Donley (Orange, Calif.) then came up with a two-RBI shot to score Dempsey and Curran.
Starting pitcher Christa Hunter then gave up three consecutive walks to senior Lisa Krueger (Mission Viejo, Calif.), sophomore Cassie Koenig (Las Vegas, Nev.), and Koller. Koller's walk forced in Donley to put Villanova up by three.
Laura Belardinelli then came to pitch for Hunter and on her very first throw, Wisniewski unleashed a grand slam to put Villanova up 7-0 in the second inning.
Following Wisniewski's slam, senior Krissy Yauch (Tucson, Ariz.) singled, senior Sarah Wall (Hollywood, Fla.) singled and Dempsey singled and scored Yauch in her second at-bat of the inning. Curran finally ended the inning on a ground out, but not before Villanova had done eight runs worth of damage.
Facing the pitching of senior Shannon Williams (Macungie, Pa.), the Panthers were unable to find an answer, as Williams tossed a two-hit, three-inning effort before she was relieved by senior Kristen Haynes (Fairfax, Calif.). Williams struck out five and Haynes three in the shutout.
In the fourth, Wisniewski came up with a one-run double to score junior Tessa Paolini (Lancaster, N.Y.), who came in to pinch run for Koller. Koller had reached base on a walk. Wisniewski accounted for five RBI in game one and Villanova sealed its first win, 9-0, in five innings.
In game two, Pittsburgh struck first, and early, needing the game two win to capture its first-ever tournament berth. In the first inning, Morgan Howard reached base on a throwing error from Williams and then scored off an RBI-double from Casey Pickard to give the Panthers an early one-run lead. But the defense came up big after that, coming up with two quick outs to stop the Panthers from adding to their lead.
The Panthers did increase their lead in the fourth inning when Joey Scarf drew a walk, one of only two from Williams. Jessica Dignon then grounded out in a sacrifice play to advance Scarf to second. Scarf then stole third before Heather Connor hit a two-run blast, which put the Panthers up 3-0 and left Villanova with the task of rallying for the win.
The Wildcats cut the run lead to two in the bottom of the fourth. Koller led off with a walk before freshman Jessica Curtis (Yorba Linda, Calif.) came in as a pinch runner. But Curtis was thrown out on a fielders' choice, which allowed Wisniewski to safely reach first. Yauch came up with a big single to advance Wisniewski, who was then replaced by pinch runner Kayla Felty (Schuylkill Haven, Pa.). Wall drew another walk to load the bases, and a single from Dempsey scored Felty to put Villanova on the board with a 3-1 score.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Wildcats sealed the deal as senior Lisa Krueger (Mission Viejo, Calif.) became a one-out base runner off a single to right field. Koenig followed with another single and then Koller came to the plate and drilled a three-run blast over right center to put Villanova up 4-3 and give the Wildcats the rally they were looking for. Dempsey gave the `Cats some breathing room off an RBI-single, which scored Wisniewski, who had reached on an error by Francesca DiMaria, the second baseman.
Williams retired the batters in order in the sixth and dug Villanova out of a jam in the seventh. With Valerie Mihalik on third, DiMaria on second, and the go-ahead run up at bat, Williams struck out Casey Pickard to end the game and earn her 23rd win of the season, a new record at Villanova. Williams pitched a complete game, striking out six and walking two while allowing just five hits.
The Wildcats will now wait for the Big East to release its pairings and seedings for the double-elimination tournament. Notre Dame, Seton Hall and Syracuse clinched the three additional berths. The championship game will be played on Saturday, May 14, with the winner receiving the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.