Feb. 15, 2013
CARY, N.C. - In the season opener for both teams on Friday afternoon a three-run rally by Villanova (0-1) in the top of the ninth inning came up just short in a 7-6 loss to Monmouth (1-0) in the Ron Fraser Classic at the USA Baseball Training Complex. Junior starting pitcher Pat Young (The Woodlands, Texas) looked strong over 5 1/3 innings on Opening Day of the 2013 season but the Hawks went ahead in the bottom of the sixth inning and maintained their lead by the smallest of margins to hold on for the victory.
Junior right fielder Connor Jones (Chandler, Ariz.) hit a two-out, two-run single in the ninth inning which trimmed a three-run deficit to the 7-6 final margin but Monmouth responded to get the last out of the game and strand the potential tying run on base. Jones and sophomore first baseman Brandon Carr (Danville, Calif.) each drove in two runs and senior shortstop Tyler Sciacca (Staten Island, N.Y.) had two hits and a run scored.
It was two runs in the top of the fourth inning which gave the Wildcats a 3-1 lead but Monmouth scored three runs in both the sixth and seventh innings to gradually take control of the contest. The Hawks had 13 hits, including three doubles, against five Villanova pitchers.
Although the temperature at game time was just shy of 60 degrees the ball never carried well off the bats and Monmouth registered many of its hits on flares that died in the shallow outfield or on high chops off of the infield grass.
Young allowed nine hits in his 5 1/3 innings of work but allowed just a few hard-hit balls to the 26 batters that he faced. He walked one and struck out three while being charged with three earned runs, the last of which scored after he had departed the game with two runners on and a precarious 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning.
In the bottom of the first inning Jon Guida opened the scoring with an RBI single that gave the Hawks a quick 1-0 lead. That advantage only lasted until the Wildcats came back to the plate, as Carr drove in his first run of the game with a two-out single in the top of the second inning which plated senior left fielder Steve Schrenk (Brigantine, N.J.) to tie the score at 1-1.
Schrenk started the two-run rally in the top of the fourth inning with a one-out single, moved to second on a wild pitch and took third on a throwing error. Carr grounded a ball back to the pitcher with runners at the corners and one out but Schrenk beat the throw to the plate on the fielder's choice ball and gave Villanova the lead for the first time. Freshman second baseman Eric Lowe (Arlington Heights, Ill.) scored on an error with two outs in the inning.
Monmouth put its leadoff man on base four times in six innings against Young and Craig Sweeney's single to lead off the home half of the sixth inning eventually turned into a three-run rally. Steve Wilgus doubled down the right field line with one out to pull the Hawks to within 3-2 and junior reliever Matt Meurer (Katy, Texas) was greeted with successive doubles by Kyle Perry and Chris Perret which brought home two more runs.
Up until the sixth inning the storyline of the game had been that every time Young needed to make a big pitch or get a big out, he did. There were runners at the corners and one out in the bottom of the fourth inning when Young induced an inning-ending double play ball off the bat of Joe Bamford. Runners were at second and third with one out in the fifth inning but Young got cleanup hitter Danny Avella to foul out to third for the second out. Guida then hit a ball into the right-center field gap which senior center fielder Paul Rambaud (Chicago, Ill.) ran down for the last out of the inning.
Starting pitcher Dan Smith went four innings for the Hawks and allowed four hits and three runs (two earned), while issuing one walking and striking out three. He was replaced by T.J. Hunt (1-0, who struck out five and allowed just one hit in three scoreless innings to help buy time until Monmouth could rally.
Meurer (0-1) took the loss for the Wildcats, whose bright spot out of the bullpen was the 1 2/3 scoreless innings thrown by junior Chris Haggarty (Valley Stream, N.Y.) to close out the game.
The Hawks were led with three hits and three runs batted in from leadoff hitter Kyle Perry, while Steve Wilgus went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and a run batted in. The six through nine hitters in the Monmouth batting order combined for six hits, five runs scored and three walks in the game.
Following a great weather day on Friday the Wildcats will have to deal with cold temperatures and the threat of precipitation throughout the day on Saturday. As of Friday evening Villanova remains on schedule to play Canisius at Noon and Toledo at 5 p.m.