by John Maza
As the lady ’Cats braced themselves for their return to the cold, they ended the USF Under Armor Showcase on Sunday in sunny Clearwater, Fla. with a 7-1 win against Boston University to finish the tournament with a 3-2 record.
After two back-to-back double headers on Friday and Saturday, Sunday was a walk in the park for the lady ’Cats.
The Wildcats (6-5) kicked off the tournament by winning the first game of their first double header with a 5-3 win over Toledo on Friday morning.
Villanova began the game swinging. The bottom of the first had the lady ’Cats off to a hot start after freshman centerfielder Shea Palmer’s leadoff double down the right field line to begin the ballgame.
Senior first baseman Valerie Ortega brought Palmer home after an RBI sacrificial fly deep into center field.
Sophomore third baseman Briana Fujii followed with a single to right to bring in two more runs, allowing Villanova to take an early 3-0 lead.
The Wildcats were able to stay hot at the plate as they continued their offensive surge into the fifth inning.
After another double from Ortega and an error, she was able to advance to third, setting up the opportunity for Sierra McConnell to bring her home.
Freshman starting pitcher Kate Poppe pitched well, pitching six and two-thirds innings while recording four strikeouts, as Villanova would cruise to win the first of their two games.
However, the Wildcats’ bats fell silent during their afternoon game against the Loyola University of Chicago as they suffered a 7-1 loss in their second game of the tournament.
Villanova couldn’t capitalize on their six hits, two of which, including a home run, came from sophomore designated hitter Beth Smetana.
Both teams were scoreless during the first two innings; however, Loyola of Chicago struck first in the top of the third inning, which gave the Ramblers an early three-run cushion.
In the bottom of the fourth Villanova’s bats started to come back to life on a homer from Smetana.
As Loyola tacked on two more runs in the top of the fifth, Villanova’s bats continued to be silent.
It wasn’t until the bottom of the seventh inning where freshman Stephanie Butler notched her first collegiate hit, but it was not enough to fuel a comeback.
The Wildcats ended the first day of the tournament with a 1-1 record, advancing to 7-7 on the season, as they prepared for their second double header of the weekend.
On Saturday, the Wildcats were faced with the gruesome challenge of their second consecutive double header as they began the day with a game against the University of South Carolina.
Junior Kaity Sitzman had a solid outing, striking out two in six innings of work. However, the Wildcats’ bats were once again silent as the Gamecocks struck first; in the bottom of the fourth scoring two runs to take a 2-0 lead.
The lady ’Cats were not ready to surrender just yet as they geared for a comeback at the top of the sixth inning.
After a bunt single by junior shortstop Ali Lowe, followed by two quick outs, senior catcher Amanda Marquez began the rally with an RBI single up the middle, bringing Lowe in to score.
However, the Gamecocks quickly ended the inning and went on to score two more insurance runs during the bottom of the sixth as they finished with a 4-1 victory over the Wildcats.
Following back-to-back losses, the Wildcats (6-7) were hungry for a win in their afternoon game against University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Fujii led the team offensively with three hits, while Lowe registered a double.
Villanova got on the scoreboard quick in the second inning after a Fujii single that brought home Smetana, as the Wildcats took an early 1-0 lead.
In the fourth, after a single down the left field line by Smetana, McConnell took one for the team after being hit by a pitch.
With runners on first and second, Fujii came through yet again as she knocked another single, this time down the right field line to advance the runners.
With the bases loaded, Chattanooga’s pitching changed provided little to no help as senior Taylor Olafson was walked, bringing home another run to put the Wildcats up 2-0.
After a series of walks in the fifth, Villanova went up 3-0 on the Mocs.
During the seventh inning, the Lowe cracked a double into left center and thanks to a throwing error; she was able to score to put Villanova up 4-0.
With her second win of the tournament, Poppe pitched a complete game recording eight strikeouts while only giving up six hits in all seven innings of work.
On Sunday, the lady ’Cats concluded the tournament with a 7-1 win over Boston University, finishing the tournament with a record of 3-2, while moving to 8-7 on the season.
The Wildcats had a strong outing across the board led by the hot bats from Ortega and Marquez early on in the ballgame.
However, it was a team effort as a five-run inning in the bottom of the fifth proved too much for the Terriers.
After a strong win and finish to the tournament, the Wildcats have a week to get re-acclimated to the cold before competing this weekend in their final tournament at Delaware, in the Delaware Spring Invitational.