May 6, 2012
VILLANOVA, Pa. - After battling for almost three hours in an 11-inning affair yesterday, Villanova (32-24, 6-16) used a 3-run 7th inning rally to come back and beat Seton Hall (21-31, 3-18) by a score of 4-3 to finish off the regular season in exciting style. Senior designated player Molly Manning hit a walk-off single in her final at bat as a Wildcat to score senior center fielder Jamie O'Hara, who was also playing her final game. Senior Caitlyn Delahaba went the distance in her final career start striking out five and giving up just two earned runs.
The finale of this BIG EAST series and the regular season featured a rematch of the first game of the series where the Wildcats won 2-0 on a shutout by Delahaba against Seton Hall's Danielle DeStaso. Each pitcher had a relatively easy first inning with Seton Hall getting the only runner on a lead-off walk, but Delahaba worked around any trouble with her first strikeout of the day.
In the top of the second, Delahaba got some great defensive help from her teammates. Junior Tessa Braga made a nice play ranging back into foul territory for the first out of the inning and her battery mate, junior catcher Amanda Marquez, made a diving play on a bunt attempt for the second out. Following a two out single, a fly out to senior center fielder Jamie O'Hara ended the inning. In the bottom of the frame, the Wildcats got their first base runner when senior third baseman led off with a walk. She moved to second on a groundout by Marquez before freshman second baseman Briana Fujii walked to put two runners on with two outs.
After Brittany Hammer reached on an error with one out in the third, Delahaba got her second strikeout of the day before Marquez gunned down Hammer trying to steal second to end the inning as she continues to establish herself as one of the best defensive catchers in the conference.
The Wildcats broke through in the bottom of the inning when they broke the scoreless tie. Braga led off the inning with an infield single, the first of the day for Villanova. After a pop out, junior first baseman Valerie Ortega laced a line drive down the right field line that got all the way to the fence for an RBI triple as Braga came around to score for a 1-0 Villanova lead. DeStatso was able to strand Ortega at third base with a pop out and strikeout to keep the Villanova advantage at one through three innings of play.
Armed with the lead, Delahaba cruised through the top of the fourth with her first 1-2-3 frame of the day including two more strikeouts, but DeStaso responded with a 1-2-3 inning herself to send the game to the fifth with the Wildcats still holding a 1-0 lead.
In the top of the fifth, the Pirates put together their first rally of the day which tied the game, and nearly gave them the lead. Laura Canulli got Seton Hall's second hit of the day to lead off the inning with a blooper to center field before she advanced to second on a walk by Nicole Loewenstein. A sacrifice bunt then moved both runners into scoring position with just one out. Sara Haefeli then hit an RBI groundout to shortstop for the second out of the inning, but Canulli scored to tie the game. More good defense kept Seton Hall from tying the game as Hammer singled to left and Braga fielded the ball cleanly and made a strong throw to Marquez at the plate to tag out the go-ahead run as the score remained 1-1 heading to the bottom of the fifth inning.
Villanova had a chance to break the tie in the bottom of the fifth when Braga reached on a two-base error with one out, but back-to-back groundouts ended the inning with the score still 1-1.
Seton Hall strung together a couple of hits and capitalized on a defensive mistake by the Wildcats to take the lead in the sixth inning. After two quick outs, DeStaso helped her cause with a single to left field and moved to third base when the next hitter hit a fly ball to right center that went off of O'Hara's glove to put runners on the corners with one out. Laura Canulli then hit a tie-breaking double to left field that scored DeStaso to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead through five and a half innings.
Facing a deficit for the first time all day, Villanova got a two-out single from freshman right fielder Beth Smetana, but Marquez grounded out to end the sixth.
Seton Hall added an insurance run in the top of the seventh on a two-out RBI single off the bat of Mraia DeLuca to make it 3-1 heading into Villanova's final chance in the bottom of the seventh.
The Wildcats were not prepared to go down easily in their final at bat of the season as Fujii singled and sophomore shortstop Ali Lowe followed with an infield single. Freshman pinch runner Kera Pezzuti and Lowe were then moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Braga. O'Hara then hit an RBI single to left field to score Pezzuti to make it 3-2 and Ortega followed that with a game-tying RBI single as the score was now 3-3. That's when Manning stepped in and lofted a hump back line drive to right center field for a single. O'Hara came charging around third base and the throw came in on time, but a great slide by O'Hara avoided the tag as the Wildcats won in walk-off fashion by a score of 4-3 to end the 2012 season.
The Wildcats doubled their win total from 16 to 32 from last year and they also doubled their conference win total from 3 to 6 from one year ago.
NOTES: Senior pitcher Molly Manning finished her career in 5th on the career complete game list with 37...Senior third baseman Kristi Burlin finished 11th in Villanova history in RBIs with 86, 11th in doubles with 30, and 5th in home runs with 19...Senior pitcher Caitlyn Delahaba finished tied for 5th in Villanova history in wins with 55, 1st in complete games with 75, and 3rd in strikeouts with 660.