PISCATAWAY, NJ - Freshman Christina Yard’s (Hillsborough, NJ) fourth inning grand slam helped the Rutgers softball team (11-27, 4-8 BIG EAST) clinch game one of its doubleheader against Villanova (9-28, 2-12 BIG EAST) on Saturday afternoon at the RU Softball Complex. The Scarlet Knights earned a sweep after winning game two in come-from-behind fashion, defeating the Wildcats 4-3.
Game one opened with the Scarlet Knights facing a bit of a jam as Villanova loaded the bases with just one out. Yard rose to the occasion and regained control of the situation, striking out the next two batters to put an end to the scare.
Rutgers got its first two batters on base as freshman Brittany Loisel (Gilbert, AZ) earned a leadoff walk, followed by Amanda Shaw (Yorba Linda, CA), who singled down the left-field line. Junior Kristin Madoch (Glenview, IL) then advanced both runners on a well-hit sacrifice bunt. Freshman Kaitlyn Valiante (Mt. Laurel, NJ), who leads the team in runs-batted-in, drove in the Scarlet Knights’ first score with an RBI single through the left side.
Freshman Sarah Kalka (Moreno Valley, CA) plated the next run with an RBI ground-out to second base, while Kim Hodges (Houston, TX) added another score with an RBI double down the right-field line. A Wildcat error at third base prolonged the inning and allowed Hodges to eventually score, giving RU a 4-0 advantage.
Villanova scored one run in the second to come within three (4-1), as Natalie Hord earned a trip to first after being hit by a pitch. Hord then stole second and was brought home on a single to left field from Cassie Koenig.
The Scarlet Knights broke things open in the fourth with a five-run inning, including a grand slam from Yard. After reaching first on a walk, Madoch was driven home on a single to right field from Valiante, giving Rutgers its first run of the inning. With Valiante on third base after a single from Kalka and walk from Hodges, RU was presented with a great scoring opportunity with the bases now loaded.
Yard fouled off several pitches from Wildcat pitcher Laura Determan before finding the perfect one. Facing two strikes, she cleared the bases with a grand slam to left-center field, giving Rutgers the 9-1 victory. Yard’s first collegiate grand slam was the first of the season for the Scarlet Knights and her second home run of the year.
In addition to excelling at the plate, Yard also had an outstanding day in the pitching circle. She allowed just one run on seven hits, while striking out eight to earn the complete-game five-inning victory.
The Wildcats took a two-run lead in the third inning of game two on a solo home run to left field from Koenig and an RBI single from Greta Holmgren.
The Scarlet Knights responded in the fourth with a run of their own, cutting Villanova’s lead to just one (2-1). Madoch started the inning with a single through the left side and was driven home on a single to center field from sophomore Shantai Dixon (Sayreville, NJ).
Rutgers would regain the lead in the very next inning on several timely hits, including a perfectly executed squeeze bunt. Shaw reached first base on a fielder’s choice and advanced to third on a double from Madoch. With runners on second and third, Valiante laid down a well-timed bunt that allowed Shaw to score from third, but a late throw to first base kept Valiante on the bags.
Madoch eventually scored on an error by the Wildcat’s shortstop, while Valiante rounded the bases and found home on an RBI ground-out from Hodges to give the Scarlet Knights a 4-2 lead.
Villanova threatened in the seventh when Meghan Morese hit a solo home run down the left-field line, bringing the Wildcats to within one run (4-3), but the Scarlet Knights would record the necessary outs and secure the victory.
Senior Christina Gillman (Valencia, CA) got the win (4-8) in game two, allowing one run on four hits in 3.2 innings of action.
Rutgers has won five of its last six games and is currently on a four-game winning streak.
The Scarlet Knights will next be in action for back-to-back doubleheaders against intra-state rivals Seton Hall and Monmouth. Rutgers will take on the Pirates in a conference match-up on Tuesday, April 18, at 3:00 pm, followed a meeting with the Hawks on Wednesday, April 19, at 3:00 pm.