Softball rallies to down Villanova, 2-1, at USF Under Armour Invitational
For the second straight day, freshman Meagan Balding delivered a game-winning hit to lift the JU softball team to a 2-1 win over Villanova on Friday night at the USF Under Armour Invitational.

Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Dolphins (12-9) tied the game on a Wildcats’ (6-8) pass ball. Balding, who had a two-run homer in the win against Saint Joseph’s on Friday, delivered a double to the fence to batter later to hand the Dolphins the win.

Balding and junior Brittany Eppley each finished with two hits, while junior Sarah Sigrest (5-3) allowed one run on four hits and struck out two batters in seven innings for the win.

“This was a great win,” said JU head coach Amanda Lehotak. “Our kids got down early, but chipped away and showed good poise that final inning to earn the win. We have to build on this and roll it into some more wins.”

Jamie O’Hara led off the fourth inning for the Wildcats with a single to left field. After a sacrifice bunt, Valerie Ortega plated O’Hara with a double to center field for the 1-0 lead.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, sophomore Olivia Kline singled up the middle and got pinch ran for by junior Melissa Morales. After advancing to second on an illegal pitch, Morales reached third on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Moran Kibler, while junior Kayla Ouellet followed with an infield single.

Ouellet stole second before a pop out to junior Amanda Schmidt and sophomore Sarah Simon followed with a walk to load the bases. O’Hara missed the first pitch from the pitcher to Balding which rolled around the back stop enough to allow Morales to score to tie the game. Villanova reliever pitcher Caitlyn Delahaba had a 2-2 count to Balding, but she smashed a double to the center field fence to complete the comeback win.

Wildcats’ starter Kaity Sitzman (0-1) took the loss after putting on both of JU’s runs in the seventh, while scattering seven hits through 6.1 innings.

Earlier in the day, the Dolphins stranded 12 base runners and surrendered a four-run sixth inning to take a 7-3 loss to Radford in the first game.

In the second inning, Taylor Cunningham with a single for the Highlanders (7-6), while Meredith Moore followed with a homer to the left field for a 2-0 lead. With two outs in the inning, Jessie Hutchens reached on a single to left field before scoring in the next at-bat on a dropped fly ball in the outfield.

The Dolphins finally got on the board in the third inning after freshman Karson Tuck singled home senior Annike Don from third. Eppley advanced to second on the hit, while Kelly followed with a single to load the bases. The Highlanders reentered starter and eventual winning pitcher Chelsea Kelley in the circle and she retired the next two hitters to leave the bases loaded.

Tuck recorded a two-out single to left field for JU in the fifth inning, while Kelly followed towering home run to left field to tie the game at three all.

In the sixth inning, Radford answered in a big way getting consecutive singles and a walk to load the bases. Morgan Eye followed with a two-run single to left field to give the Highlanders a 5-3 lead, while Ryndee Ruch added an RBI hit in the next at-bat. Hutchens rounded out the four-run inning with a sacrifice fly to plate a runner for a 7-3 advantage.

Eppley recorded a one-out double in the bottom of the seventh inning for JU, while Tuck was hit by a pitch and Kelly walked to load the bases. Kelley settled down to get a pop out and struck out to quash the Dolphins comeback to secure the Radford win.

Kelley (3-2) allowed two runs on six hits and struck out five in 6.2 innings to get the victory.

Kline (7-4) took the loss, allowing four runs on five hits and three strikeouts in five relief innings. Eppley allowed three runs on three hits in two innings for the no-decision, while Tuck finished with three hits to pace JU at the plate.

The Dolphins finish the invitational tomorrow with Toledo at 9:30 a.m.