Softball Loses to Princeton, Sweeps St. John’s


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Paige Rauch has put together another strong season for Villanova.

Aphrodite Dimopoulos, Staff Writer

Villanova softball had a busy last week, playing four games over a five day period. On Wednesday, the Wildcats matched up with the Princeton Tigers for an away game that they lost, 6-5, before traveling home for a three game series against St. John’s, spanning from Friday to Sunday. The women dominated on the field, winning all three games and setting a strong Big East precedent in just their second conference matchup of the season.

Wednesday’s game, although a loss, was a close matchup. Looking at the game statistics, Princeton boasted 14 hits throughout the game, while Villanova put together just six. The final score was only a one run difference, a testament to the optimization of the offensive hits and the strategy defensively to keep the Tigers within reach.

Sophomore pitcher Caroline Pellicano showed tremendous discipline and ability throughout the game as she worked through her 3 ⅔ innings of scoreless relief. Starting pitcher, freshman Kelsey White, who was ultimately relieved by Pellicano, proved to be a strong underclassmen force on the mound. Beyond defensive work, however, the story of this game was perseverance. 

The Wildcats were trailing 6-0 when they came to bat in the fourth inning, but rather than falling defeated after those scoreless innings, the team rallied to score five unanswered runs over the next three frames and, while they never came to fruition, the team managed to get both tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position late in the sixth inning. Leading offensively, senior shortstop Megan Kern went two-for-four with two RBIs in the matchup, while graduate first baseman Paige Rauch and junior third baseman Chloe Smith each singled, walked and scored a run at top of the lineup. White made it on base three times with a single and two walks. The loss in the books does not quite show the resilience from this game, but the following three-game sweep does. 

Leaving Princeton both optimistic and fired up, the team headed home to take on St. John’s, looking to bounce back after a tough two-loss Big East series against Butler in early March. Freshman second baseman Ava Franz was the star of Friday’s game, leading the offense with two home runs. Rauch started on the mound for the ‘Cats and, behind a pristine three-hit, home run performance, she pitched up to the best of her ability, throwing her fifth complete game of the season. Rauch showed complete control throughout six innings, retiring the first 15 batters she faced, recording six strikeouts and not walking a single batter throughout the game. One of Franz’s home runs and Rauch’s big-league hit came in the fourth inning and, with both of them scoring two runs, Villanova flew ahead of St. John’s. Totaling 10 hits at the end of the game, Villanova went into Saturday confident. 

Saturday’s matchup was a special one as it was the Lacing Up 4 Cancer fundraising game. The event meant hosting the Upper Merion Little League at the Villanova Softball Complex, and the young fans were not disappointed. With 11 total hits, Villanova beat St. John’s, 9-1, led by junior third baseman Chloe Smith, who totaled three hits and three RBIs. Smith went three-for-four and ultimately raised her batting average to a .349 on the season. Continuing their success from the previous day’s game, Kern and White each had two hits and together brought in three runs to seal the team’s win. 

Defensively, senior pitcher Sara Kennedy allowed only five hits with no earned runs allowed. This was her first complete game of the season, and she broke her season record of strikeouts with her new high of six. 

To close out the weekend, the Wildcats stayed consistent with another 9-1 victory on Sunday afternoon. Rauch took the mound again, bringing her to eight wins this season. Although allowing only one run the whole game would seem to be her highlight, Rauch stunned the crowd on the offensive end, hitting one home run and tallying three RBIs throughout the game. White  continued her impressive series the same way, adding on one homer and three RBIs herself. This was White’s first collegiate home run and, with it taking place in the first inning, it really fired the team up to start swinging. 

Sunday brought extremely cold temperatures and scattered snow showers that threw off the offense some. The early 3-0 lead for the Wildcats’ held until the bottom of the fifth inning when White and junior catcher Ally Jones singled back-to-back to load the bases with one out. Scoring off of a Red Storm error, Villanova’s lead increased to 5-0 with pinch runners Tess Cites and Elaina Wager each scoring as Villanova closed out the series consistently hot. 

All in all, Villanova outscored St. John’s by a 24-4 margin in its dominant three-game sweep. The women struggled getting their footing at the start of the year, but as they enter into April, they are showing a true upwards trend both overall and in Big East play. The Wildcats play St. Joseph’s on Wednesday and then travel to Chicago for another Big East series against DePaul this weekend.