SFTBL: Wildcats rally for sweep over Providence

David Cassilo

The Wildcats, who started off the season winning their first six games, found themselves struggling to stay at .500 as they entered a tough six-game stretch with trips to Princeton, Connecticut and Providence. With the Big East tournament hanging in the balance and just under three weeks left in the season, the team felt the urgency that surrounded the upcoming games.

The road trip opened with a doubleheader against Princeton on April 19. Villanova fans were treated to an exciting softball game as the Wildcats outlasted the Tigers 6-5 in nine innings. Junior outfielder Kayla Felty gave Villanova the edge as she delivered the game-winning RBI in the final inning.

With one win under their belt, the Wildcats looked poised to sweep the doubleheader from their Ivy League opponents. In another compelling game, Villanova came out on top 5-3 behind the strong pitching performance of sophomore Lauren Determan. Senior catcher Cassie Koenig smacked her fifth home run of the season, while junior outfielder Maggie Seidel added her first.

With the two-game sweep behind them, the Wildcats readied themselves for their matchup against Big East rival Connecticut. This series did not end in Villanova’s favor. Despite big games from freshmen Jess O’Boyle and Eryn Teague, who had three and two RBIs respectively, the team was narrowly edged out 9-8 in the first game of the doubleheader Saturday. Villanova also found itself on the losing side of a 4-2 game in the nightcap.

After dropping two crucial Big East games, the Wildcats could not afford any losses Sunday when they traveled to Rhode Island to take on the Providence Friars. The Wildcats rode the back of first baseman Teague, who hit solo home runs to lead Villanova to a solid 6-4 win. Although facing an early 3-0 deficit to start the game, Villanova rallied and stole one from the Friars.

The second game was a classic pitcher’s duel, and Kat Walsh was up to the task for the Wildcats. Walsh was able to dance in and out of trouble and held the Friars scoreless, despite allowing 10 base runners. She was given little help offensively as Villanova was only able to collect two hits, but the one run proved to be enough to shutout Providence 1-0.

“Every inning we had to fight out of it,” Walsh said. “It was a tough game, but it just seemed like a pitcher’s day.”

The team achieved two milestones during the trip to Providence. Coach Maria DiBernardi picked up her 600th career victory on Sunday in her 23rd season with the Wildcats. Senior shortstop Sheri Donley also made a little history of her own by collecting her 200th career hit. In the process, Donley also extended her hit streak to 14 consecutive games.

It was obvious that the players had their minds on a trip to the Big East tournament when they made the trip to Providence.

“These two games put us back in the running in for Big East,” Teague said. “Everyone was on fire and ready to win them.” Villanova, which now ranks 11th in the conference, needs to finish in the top eight to make the tournament.

Following its doubleheader with Lehigh on Tuesday, Villanova welcomes St. John’s to the Main Line for a crucial pair of Big East games today, with the first game set to begin at 3 p.m.