Softball Looks Ahead After Challenging 1-4 Weekend


Courtesy of Villanova Athletics

Softball struggles in Auburn Invitational this past weekend.

Katie Lewis, Staff Writer

Last weekend, Villanova’s softball team traveled to Alabama to compete against some of the nation’s top softball programs at The Auburn University Tiger Invitational. The team went 1-4, beating Dayton once and losing once to Austin Peay, twice to Auburn, and once to Dayton in a second game, before returning home on Sunday, Feb. 19.

“This weekend, the errors were really costly,” head coach Bridget Orchard said. “But we have a really young team, so it was good for us to face [Auburn] this early on to get experience playing against the best of the best.”

On Friday, the Wildcats defeated Dayton 3-2 for the first time in program history. The game featured strong pitching from freshman Kat Gallant. Gallant pitched for 6.2 innings, giving up six hits and two earned runs and striking out six batters. 

Neither team scored for the first four innings, until a hit by junior center fielder Tess Cites allowed senior first baseman and pinch runner Victoria Sebastian to score and put Villanova on the board. The Wildcats added two more runs in the sixth inning, when Sebastian hit a line drive to clear the bases for a 3–0 lead. In the second half of the inning, Dayton scored two runs off two doubles and a single.

Although successful in the first game of the day, the Wildcats did not maintain that success as they lost to No. 21 Auburn, 8-0, in five innings during their second game on Friday. 

Following a home run during the first at-bat, Auburn finished the game with ten hits and six RBIs. Villanova, meanwhile, managed one hit, a single from sophomore pitcher Kelsey White.

On Saturday morning, the Wildcats lost to Austin Peay, 2–0. Although the team was unable to bring any runners home, Villanova totaled four base hits. Graduate student Peyton Schnackenberg brought a strong pitching performance with a complete game and five strikeouts, allowing only five hits and two runs from the Governors. 

The second game on Saturday was a rematch against No. 21 Auburn. Although the Wildcats demonstrated some improvements since the day before, they were once again defeated, losing, 9–3. 

Cites kicked off the game with a single, and the Wildcats took advantage of two errors by the opponent team to score a run in the first inning. After an Auburn grand slam in the second half of the inning, the game took a positive turn for Villanova when senior third baseman Chloe Smith hit a home run to bring the score up to 4–2. However, Auburn eventually took the lead with strong hitting and multiple Villanova miscues.

For the third day of play on Sunday, the Wildcats faced Dayton for a second time, their last game of the tournament. The game ended in five innings, as the Flyers mercy-ruled the Wildcats 11-3. 

Despite a powerful double from Cites to open the game, Villanova was unable to score until the fifth inning, when sophomore infielder Elaina Wagner and freshman outfielder Madison Ostrowski hit their first career doubles and RBIs.

Despite the disappointing weekend, Orchard is optimistic as the season progresses.

“Graduating an All-American pitcher and our top three hitters last year, I knew that some growing pains were coming,” Orchard said. “But I think the team is doing a great job to find little things we’re doing right, and they’re understanding that it’s a long season, and we don’t always start where we finish.”

The Wildcats will take the field again this weekend as they head to Boca Raton, Fl. to compete in the FAU “Strike Out Cancer” Tournament, which will feature North Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Wisconsin and Boston College. 

Villanova will open up tournament play against North Carolina on Friday, Feb. 24 at 2 p.m.