Softball gets back on track with win

Matt Clark

Junior Kristen Haynes and senior Ricci Lugo retuned to top form this past weekend leading the Wildcats to three wins.

‘Nova took two games from Providence (13-8; 0-2) on Saturday and split with Temple (14-13; 0-0) on Sunday. Villanova left the weekend with an overall record of 11-12, a league record of 2-0 and is currently atop the Big East.

“We are definitely on the upturn,” head coach Maria DiBernardi said. “The Providence wins were ones we couldn’t afford to drop. It’s a great way to start off the season [of Big East play].”

Inconsistency has plagued the Wildcats in the early season. What DiBernardi expressed as a “confidence problem” seems to be slipping away when it counts by the two players the ‘Cats need most.

Haynes, the ‘Cats’ No. 2 pitcher, entered the weekend with a 0-5 record and an ERA above four.

In 2003 Haynes was selected as an NFCA Academic All-American, walking just 12 batters all season.

The inability for Haynes to perform up to expectations caused DiBernardi to overwork ace Shannon Williams. Soon enough opposing teams found Williams’ timing and began to take the game over.

This weekend, all that changed. Haynes pitched not only her first complete game of the season against Providence but pitched a shutout. In six innings of work Haynes faced 23 batters, giving up no walks and only six hits, en route to a 8-0 victory for the ‘Cats and her first win of the season. The hot hand didn’t stop there; less then 24 hours later, Haynes pitched another complete game against Temple. Haynes let up only one run on five hits in seven innings of work against the Owls in the 4-1 victory.

“It just felt so good to get back into my groove,” Haynes said. “I know I have a lot more in me and I am confident it is only going to get better from this point on.” Haynes attributed her success to her teammate’s defense. “I don’t know if I could have survived with out my teammates and the constant support and encouragement they have given me,” she said.

The return of Lugo to top form could be the most crucial improvement needed for the season.

Lugo, who had a .404 batting average in 2003 which earned All Big East honors, had struggled in the first half of the Wildcats’ season batting just .149.

Lugo has been bothered by a hamstring pull for a few years, and shoulder problems that popped up last year prompting her move from shortstop to second base.

“Playing with an injury last season [continued this year] is not what I expected for my senior year,” Lugo said. “But it has only made me work harder and overcome the immense pain I play through.”

The slump was broken in one powerful swing as Lugo homered in her first at-bat against Providence. The slam moved Lugo into second place on the all-time home run list at Villanova.

The hits kept on coming for the second baseman. Lugo racked up five RBIs, four runs scored and went 5-11 (.455) over the weekend.

For her performance, Lugo was honored by the ECAC with the Division I player of the week award.

Lugo was also presented with the co-Big East Player of the week award.

Lugo’s return to top form couldn’t have come at a better time for the Wildcats, as they enter league play against their Big East rivals.

Lisa Krueger’s injury is another reason that Lugo’s play means a lot to the team. Krueger was cleared last week for light work out; but it is unlikely to see a return this season. She will revisit the doctors in two weeks.

DiBernardi stressed the importance of the team’s effort. “There were not a lot of standouts, this was total team effort,” DiBernardi said. “No one person wins games for us. That’s the way it is with this team, we are strong from one to nine in the lineup.”

Robin Flier scored three runs, Kristen Youch went 3-11 and Kari Koller knocked in 3 RBIs to add to the team’s offense over the weekend.

Lugo, Haynes and the rest of the team will return to play today with a double header at Pittsburgh (13-17; 0-0), who they beat once already this season.

Another test will come on Sunday with another double-header against Virginia Tech (26-12), who has a powerful offense and a solid pitching core.