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by Paul Regan

The softball team played four games this weekend in the Delaware Spring Invitational, the last of four regular season tournaments for the Wildcats.

Coming into the tournament with a record of 8-7, the ’Cats went 3-1 at Delaware to improve to 11-8 on the year.

They notched comeback wins against both Hartford and Norfolk State and also defeated tournament host Delaware. The lone blemish came against St. Francis.

On Friday afternoon, Villanova came from behind to beat Hartford (5-10) by a score of 6-3. The Wildcats scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to overtake the Hawks.

Hartford jumped out to an early lead when sophomore third baseman Jackie Kelly knocked in two runs on a two-out single.

Villanova answered in the bottom half of the inning when freshman center fielder Shea Palmer led off with a walk and later scored on a double by sophomore designated hitter Beth Smetana.

’Nova trailed the entire  game until senior first baseman Valerie Ortega drove in the tying runs on a triple to right-center field.

Two consecutive errors by Hartford and an RBI single by junior shortstop Ali Lowe gave the ’Cats a three-run cushion. The team batted around in the inning with four hits.

Freshman pitcher Kate Poppe pitched four and a third innings in relief of junior Kaity Sitzman, earning her 9th win of the season.

Poppe gave up a leadoff double in the bottom of the 7th inning, but proceeded to strike out two Hartford batters to seal the victory for the Wildcats.

On a cold, dreary Saturday, ’Nova lost to St. Francis (Pa.) (14-7) by a score of 3-1. Neither team produced much offense with just 10 hits between the two teams.

Villanova broke open the scoring in the top of the 2nd inning when Ortega’s RBI double to left field scored Smetana, who had walked. Villanova would only have four baserunners for the rest of the game.

St. Francis pushed two runs across in the bottom of the 2nd inning and one more in the bottom of the 3rd. Two of those runs were unearned.

In the 2nd inning, freshman right fielder Samantha Thomas reached base on an error. The play scored senior first baseman Taylor Darneille. St. Francis’ scored again on a catcher’s interference call with the bases loaded.

St. Francis’ freshman pitcher Keterah Devries went the distance, allowing just one run on four hits, one walk and one strikeout.

Poppe, who relieved sophomore pitcher Ali Angelbello in the 3rd inning, was just as dominant. She threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out seven.

Villanova’s offense woke up in a Sunday morning matchup with Norfolk State (7-15), albeit aided by six errors by their opponent. The Wildcats won 7-6 in walk-off fashion when pinch-hitter Julie Smith singled to center field to score Palmer.

Defensive miscues by both teams led to scoring in the first inning. Two Villanova errors and two RBI singles by junior first baseman Melina Valles and sophomore left fielder Haley Ward gave Norfolk State a 2-0 lead.

’Nova answered back with five runs in the bottom half of the inning. Ortega and freshman left fielder Sierra McConnell both reached on errors by Norfolk State.  Two runs scored on each play. Senior second baseman Taylor Olafson’s RBI single up the middle gave the ’Cats a 5-2 lead.

Villanova tacked on another run in the 5th inning when senior catcher Amanda Marquez reached on a fielder’s choice that scored Palmer.

Norfolk State tied the game 6-6 in the top of the 7th inning on RBI singles from junior catcher Kathy Cortez and freshman third baseman Whitney Williams. A third out with the bases loaded would come back to haunt them later in the game.

Two errors committed by Norfolk State in the bottom of the 7th gave the Wildcats an opportunity to win the game. Smith capitalized by knocking home Palmer to make the score 7-6.

The Wildcats’ toughest test was still ahead of them. They had a Sunday afternoon affair with tournament host Delaware (17-4), which they won 4-2.

The ’Cats jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Lowe scored on a Delaware throwing error, and Delaware tied it up in the third on a single by junior shortstop Michelle McKinnon.

After an RBI double by Palmer in the fourth inning, Delaware tied the score again in the fifth on a groundout by McKinnon.

Villanova pushed two runs across in the 5th inning to take a 4-2 lead that it would not relinquish. A throwing error by Delaware’s catcher on a double steal attempt resulted in Lowe crossing home plate to make the score 3-2. Then Ortega singled home Smetana, who reached third on the double steal.

Poppe was phenomenal on the mound once again for ’Nova. She threw a complete game, surrendering two runs on five hits while striking out eight.Villanova recorded 11 hits from eight different players, including multi-hit games by Ortega and Palmer.

The ’Cats, now 11-8 on the season, head to Washington D.C. this weekend for a three-game series with Big East foe Georgetown.

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