May 1, 2014
VILLANOVA, Pa. - Coming off a record breaking performance by Kate Poppe during a 4-0 shutout victory over Penn on Tuesday, the Villanova softball team (18-31, 5-13 BIG EAST) looks to play spoiler over the weekend as they welcome St. John's (24-22, 9-8 BIG EAST) to the Villanova Softball Complex for its season finale.
Poppe headlines a pitching staff that is ranked third in the BIG EAST with a 2.73 ERA on the season. Earlier in the week, the sophomore ace surpassed Shannon Williams to become the program's single season strikeout leader. She has been overpowering hitters all year, limiting batters to a .194 batting average to go with 274 whiffs, the fourth most strikeouts in the entire NCAA.
On the offensive side, Villanova has relied heavily on the underclassmen over the past couple of weeks. Freshman Lauren Herschberg has shined as the leadoff hitter in the past 12 games, hitting .385 with four RBI, five extra base hits and six runs scored, while slugging .513. Fellow newcomer, Natalia Segovia has picked up her bat over the past 10 games. The catcher is batting .296 with a .367 on base percentage and four RBI.
Sophomores Sierra McConnell and Shea Palmer have provided the bulk of the run support during conference action. McConnell has a home run, four doubles and 11 RBI in that span, rotating from shortstop to both corner outfield positions for the Wildcats. Palmer has scored nine runs and is batting .295 in those 15 games. All three games will be broadcast on Nova Nation All-Access with Nick Mantegna on the call. Live stats can be followed through Gametracker.
Following Saturday's "Senior Day" doubleheader, the Wildcats will be honoring team captains Ali Lowe, Danielle Lewandowski, Kaity Sitzman and team manager Alyssa Lodato for their time and commitment over the past four years with the softball program.
Lowe has been the starting shortstop since putting on a Villanova uniform early on during her freshman campaign. As a sophomore, she started all 56 games in the season and excelled for coach DiBernardi adding 15 RBI, 19 runs, 38 hits and five stolen bases. The next season, Lowe showed her dependability starting 51 of the team's 52 games as the leadoff hitter. During that impressive junior season, Lowe hit .304 with a .353 on base percentage, while tallying 10 multi-hit games, 14 RBI, 26 runs scored and six thefts. In 38 starts as a senior, the Fla. native has driven in seven runs, scored 10 times and stole eight bases with an outstanding .961 fielding percentage manning the infield. In the summer of 2013, she was named the NCAS/Scholar Baller National Academic Momentum Award Winner for her contributions in the classroom and on the playing field.
Lewandowski has been a serviceable role player for the Wildcats over the past four seasons. The utility outfielder has done a solid job filling in at different positions, while serving as a pinch runner in key situations. The Chicago, Ill. native has accounted for 14 runs and a stolen base during her career. She was also a member of the BIG EAST All-Academic Team as a junior.
Sitzman has solidified one of the spots in the pitching rotation during her time on DiBernardi's staff. The 5'6 righty has nine wins during her career with eight of those coming after 15 appearances as a freshman. In 16 stints on the mound as a sophomore, Sitzman limited opposing teams to a .211 batting average and registered a 2.79 ERA. Following a junior campaign where Sitzman posted a 2.46 ERA, seventh best in the BIG EAST, the Arizona native was named to the BIG EAST All-Academic Team. In 2014, she has four victories and 46 strikeouts with a 3.43 ERA serving as the No. 2 starter and first pitcher out of the bullpen.
In 2011, Lodato appeared in 10 games as a freshman and scored one run. Over the past three seasons, Lodato has been serving as the team manager on top of singing the national anthem before home contests.
Five teams vie for three slots at a chance to clinch a postseason berth. At 9-8, St. John's, Georgetown and Butler would be slated in the BIG EAST Tournament if the season ended today. However, 9-9 Seton Hall and 7-10 Creighton are on the outside looking in and if the opportunity arises, will be looking to slither their way into the playoffs.
Not only are the Wildcats aiming to end the season on a high note, but Villanova can spoil the Johnnies hopes at a league title if they take care of business on its home diamond.
SCOUTING ST. JOHN'S
St. John's travels across state lines boasting a 9-8 mark in conference and a 24-22 overall record. The Red Storm come into Villanova hot, having clinched four consecutive BIG EAST series wins (2 of 3 games). Their last series loss came to Butler at home, who the Wildcats took two out of three from earlier in the season. However, the Johnnies have not fared well away from home as they possess a 7-10 record.
Known for its offense, St. John's is batting .286 with a .354 on base percentage, both ranking second in the conference behind DePaul. The Red Storm is led by a triple headed monster that are among the top-five hitters in the conference and account for 87 of the team's 168 runs driven in during the year. Jackie Reed is batting .406 with eight home runs, 27 RBI and 29 runs scored to lead the attack. The team's top power hitter, Erin Burner trails only DePaul's Mary Connolly with 12 homeruns, 34 RBI and 37 runs scored in the league's major categories. Kaitli Fitzgerald contributes with 17 runs, 26 RBI and is batting .372 in the cleanup spot.
A team that wins the majority of their games in slugfests, St. John's posts a modest 4.05 staff ERA. Opponents are batting .280 against the Johnnies, who have registered only 207 strikeouts to Villanova's conference best 356. Francesca Carrullo and Tori Free split the bulk of the pitching duty. Free is the team ace that is 10-14 with a 3.42 ERA and 121 strikeouts in 122.2 innings of work. Usually the second starter on Saturday, Carrullo is 6-2 and has a team-low 3.36 ERA in 66.2 innings pitched.