1999 Year in Review
The 1999 Villanova University baseball team was a blend of talented youth and scrappy veterans. This group of Wildcats used a volatile offensive attack and a some last inning heroics to put together a list of outstanding team and individual accomplishments.
Villanova started the season slowly, recording a 2-8 record during its spring travels that took the 'Cats on trips to Raleigh, North Carolina and Boca Raton, Florida. The Wildcats turned the tides back their way upon their return north. Villanova tallied a 7-2-1 record over its next nine games, improving its record to 9-8-1 heading into its first Big East weekend.
After dropping two consecutive games to Notre Dame on Saturday, March 27, the Wildcats hosted the Red Storm of St. John's for a doubleheader on Sunday, March 28. Riding on the right arm of pitcher Will Henry, who pitched nine scoreless innings, Villanova took a 0-0 tie into the bottom of the tenth inning. With one out in the bottom of the tenth, sophomore designated hitter Nick Piantek blasted a home run over the right field fence to give the Wildcats a 1-0 victory. Villanova took game two, 6-4, to complete a two-game sweep over the Red Storm.
After a 8-7 afternoon come back win over Wagner on March 30, the 'Cats headed across the street to Veterans Stadium for the Liberty Bell Classic opener. Down 10-9 in the ninth inning, Villanova scored two in the ninth for an 11-10 victory. Senior catcher John Picone supplied the game-winning hit for the 'Cats. The victory was the 400th career win at Villanova for George Bennett.
Holding on for a 12-10 win over Temple in the Liberty Bell Semifinals on April 6, the Wildcats advanced to the title game to take on St. Joseph's on April 8. Despite coming back from a 13-4 deficit against the Hawks, Villanova still trailed 13-10 heading into the ninth inning. In the ninth, the Wildcats scored four runs without recording a hit to rally for their second consecutive Liberty Bell Championship. The University of Delaware was the only previous team to take two straight titles.
Sophomore second baseman Matt Longo and freshman first baseman Rob Cafiero were named Co-MVP's of the Liberty Bell Classic. Longo finished the tournament six-for-10 with one double, two home runs, eight runs scored and seven RBI in three games. Cafiero went seven-for-15 with two home runs, three doubles, five runs scored and 10 RBI.
After losing six of seven games between April 10-18, Villanova took seven of its next 10 contests to bring its record to 27-23-1. The Wildcats closed out the 1999 season with a 27-26-1 record
The 1999 season was filled with outstanding individual performances. Longo was named to the All-Big East first team after ending the season with a .361 batting average, 64 runs scored, 16 doubles, nine home runs and 57 RBI. Cafiero was also honored by the Big East as a conference All-Rookie Team performer. He finished the season tied with Longo for the team batting crown with a .361 average. In addition to recording 40 runs scored and 15 doubles, Cafiero led the team with 10 home runs and 72 RBI. The 72 RBI placed him first in the Big East and ranked him among the nation's leaders as well.
Despite not receiving the accolades, several other individuals put together outstanding campaigns. Sophomore outfielder Dave Pizzini batted .359 with 13 doubles and 36 RBI. Senior outfielders Mike Perate (.357), Chris Watson (.353), Joe DelVecchio (.318) and Bill Brehm (.306) each hit over .300 as well, while Nick Piantek surpassed his career-high with nine home runs. Short stop Pat Kane was outstanding in the field and at the plate, where he batted .289, had a .418 on-base percentage and scored 55 runs. On the mound, closer Brian Manning tied the Villanova single season save mark with nine saves. Sophomore Aaron Krawiec led the staff with six wins, while Cafiero and junior Drew Kirchner each had five victories.
Nine times during the 1999 season, Villanova either rallied or broke ties to record victories in the final inning of play. These nine wins amounted to one-third of the Wildcats 27 wins. Despite losing eight outstanding seniors from the 1999 team to graduation, the 'Cats will return a tremendous core for the 2000 season. As Villanova enters its third century of baseball in 2000, the Wildcats will look to turn the tides back their way, as they try to make a run towards the top of the Big East.