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Softball Opens Season, Going 2–3 at Buzz Classic

Courtesy of Villanova Athletics
The Wildcats went 2–3 on the weekend, facing Georgia Tech, Alabama, and Longwood at the Buzz Classic in Atlanta, GA.

The Wildcats opened their season this past weekend at the Buzz Classic in Atlanta, GA winning two out of five games in the tournament. 

In the opening game against Georgia Tech on Thursday, the Wildcats went down, 3-0, after allowing a run in each of the second, third and fourth innings. 

A Wildcat rally ensued in the top of the seventh when freshman Grace Reed led off with a pinch-hit home run. Senior center fielder Tess Cites flew out and sophomore Lilly St. Jean produced a pinch-hit single before sophomore Maddie Burrows struck out, and senior catcher Emily Orr walked. 

Junior shortstop Ava Franz cracked a double to left-center, scoring St. Jean, but Orr was cut down at the plate to end the game with Georgia Tech winning, 3-2. 

Sophomore pitcher Kat Gallant took the loss in the opener, scattering six hits and three runs over four innings pitched.

In game two, Villanova took on Alabama. The Wildcats’ offense was stymied by Crimson Tide pitcher Kayla Beaver. She spun a seven-inning no-hitter and walked just one while striking out 14, as Alabama emerged with a 3-0 victory. 

“[Beaver] was throwing 70s and…our hardest (pitcher) throws 64, so literally the speed was something we weren’t used to…she could go up and down, we struggled to see her,” head coach Bridget Orchard said. “I thought we made some decent contact off of her, but they obviously made all the plays. For us, I think that game is going to make us better.”

For Villanova, senior pitcher Caroline Pellicano took the tough-luck loss, completing six strong innings of her own, surrendering five hits and three runs while striking out six.

On Friday, the Wildcats were the home team against Longwood in game three and responded with their first win of the weekend, claiming a 5–1 victory.

The scoring started for the ‘Cats in the bottom of the third, when graduate first baseman Victoria Sebastian walked and then came home to score when Cites reached base on an error.

They would tack on another run in the fifth when junior right fielder Elaina Wagner launched a home run to center field and then another three runs in the sixth on a run-scoring double from Wagner and a two-run single from Sebastian.

Picking up the win for the Wildcats was junior pitcher Kelsey White, who surrendered only one run over five strong innings, allowing four hits and striking out four batters. 

In game four, the Wildcats took on Georgia Tech for a second time and secured their second win of the weekend, 5–2. 

Second baseman St. Jean got the scoring started in the top of the first, crushing a two-run home run to left, scoring graduate DP Chloe Smith.

Georgia Tech scratched two runs across in the bottom half of the inning to tie the game, but the Wildcats grabbed the lead back in the third on an RBI double by St. Jean.

Villanova scored two more runs for insurance in the sixth when graduate catcher Ally Jones produced an RBI double, and graduate first baseman Sebastian scored on an error.

Pellicano went the distance in the win, completing seven innings while allowing just six hits and two runs, neither of which were earned. She additionally recorded one strikeout and did not walk a batter.

The Wildcats closed the Classic on Saturday, playing as the home team against Longwood and losing, 6–5.

Longwood opened the scoring in the second inning, plating a run on a single and a subsequent error on the same play that allowed a second run to score.

Villanova evened the score in the bottom half of the same inning when first baseman Sebastian and redshirt junior DP Brooklyn Ostrowski crushed back-to-back solo home runs. Later that inning, it took the lead when Cites scored on a fielder’s choice and St. Jean continued her strong tournament with an RBI single.

Longwood knotted the game back up once again in the third before taking the lead again in the 5th. The Wildcats subsequently tied the game up in the sixth when Ostrowski launched her second solo home run of the game.

Longwood then took the lead, ultimately for good, in the top of the seventh on a sacrifice fly. The Wildcats put the tying and go-ahead runs on base in the bottom of the seventh but ultimately did not score, and Longwood took the game.

Pellicano took the loss, surrendering two hits and the go-ahead run in her single inning of work.

For the Classic, St. Jean was a standout player, hitting .455 with a 1.318 OPS. St. Jean’s performance earned her the Big East Player of the Week honor.

“[St. Jean] was awesome,” Orchard said. “She was phenomenal. She just came out really hitting the ball well, I think she hit over .450 on the week, all the balls she was hitting were hard, even her outs… hitting home runs, you know there were a couple of balls that just missed. Defensively she was flawless as well as offensively. [She’s] in mid-season form already.”

Villanova returns to action on Friday, Feb 16 at 11 a.m. as it kicks off the Weiler Orthodontics Invitational in Harrisonburg, VA.

“It’s going to be freezing,” Orchard said. “I think we are going to see more quality opponents, which is what we want to see. George Mason won their conference last year, JMU went to the World Series and Lehigh is always at the top of their conference. [We will] get a chance to see all those teams and they have great pitching staffs that will get us better.”

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