Feb. 20, 2011
NORFOLK, Va. - In the rubber game of a three-game series to start the 2011 season, Villanova (2-1) put together a terrific effort at the plate and on the mound to overpower Norfolk State (1-2) in a 13-1 victory at Marty L. Miller Field on Sunday afternoon. Twelve different batters had at least one hit for the Wildcats, who had their most hits (22) in more than a decade while also getting strong performances from four different pitchers that combined on a six-hitter.
Villanova broke out early with four runs in the top of the first inning and then, after allowing a single run in the bottom of the first, held the Spartans off the scoreboard the rest of the way. The lead stretched to 7-1 with three runs in the fourth inning for the Wildcats and grew steadily late in the game as Villanova tacked on single runs in the seventh and ninth innings with a four-run eighth sandwiched in between.
Senior third baseman David Koczirka (Thornton, Pa.) led the offensive attack by going 3-for-6 with two runs scored and three runs batted in. Junior center fielder Jordan Zech (Naples, Fla.) and freshman designated hitter Connor Jones (Phoenix, Ariz.) each had three hits, while senior Dain Hall (Barrington, Ill.) and junior Matt Fleishman (East Northport, N.Y.) drove in two runs apiece.
On the mound, three of the four pitchers used by Villanova were freshmen and Norfolk State managed just one hit and one runner in scoring position after the fourth inning. Freshman Matt Lengel (Devon, Pa.) started and allowed a run on four hits in three innings of work, while classmate Max Almonte (Long Beach, N.Y.) earned the victory with four shutout innings of relief. Sophomore Matt Longfield (Miami, Fla.) and freshman Chris Haggarty (Valley Cottage, N.Y.) pitched 1-2-3 innings in the eighth and ninth, respectively, as the Wildcats retired 15 of the last 17 Spartan batters.
At the plate, Villanova put its leadoff man on base six times in the game and incredibly had 16 of its 22 hits come with runners on base. The team was 16-for-35 with runners on base and a robust 12-for-27 with runners in scoring position. Fleishman, who had seven hits in the first two games of the series, walked in each of his first two plate appearances in today's game. He was eventually pitched too, though, and delivered a two-run triple in the eighth inning.
Junior left fielder Andrew Geenen (Portola Valley, Calif.) led off the game with a single, stole second, took third on a passed ball and came home on a two-run double by Koczirka that also plated Fleishman with the game's first two runs. Hall delivered a run-scoring single later in the inning and junior Kevin Wager (Fairfax, Va.) scored a fourth run on a safety squeeze with Hall at third and still only one out.
Koczirka doubled twice and Fleishman hit the triple for the Wildcats but otherwise the other 19 hits were all singles as Villanova executed its traditional small-ball offense to perfection. Junior catcher Adam Nelson (St. Joseph, Mo.) drove in a run in the seventh inning on another safety squeeze sacrifice bunt after earlier bunting for a single in the fourth inning.
The top of the fourth inning started with a walk to Jones, followed by bunt singles from both Nelson and junior shortstop Marlon Calbi (Montclair, N.J.). With the bases loaded and nobody out, one run scored on a wild pitch and then Geenen and Zech each followed with run-scoring singles.
Geenen went 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI out of the leadoff spot and stole three bases on the day, including both second and third after being hit by a pitch to start the sixth inning. Sophomore outfielder Paul Rambaud (Chicago, Ill.) replaced Geenen and went 2-for-2 with two runs scored and a stolen base of his own.
Norfolk State found itself down 4-0 before even coming to bat for the first time but quickly started something against Lengel by loading the bases with nobody out on a pair of singles and a hit batter in the bottom of the first inning. Only one run developed from that scoring threat, however, as Lengel escaped the inning with a strikeout, sacrifice fly and another fly out.
He allowed just one base runner each in the second and third innings before exiting upon reaching his pitch count. Almonte (1-0, 0.00 ERA) allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out three between the fourth and seventh innings to earn the win in his collegiate debut.
Starting pitcher Justin Bhatti (0-1, 22.09 ERA) went the first three-plus innings for the Spartans and was charged with 10 hits, three walks and seven earned runs and departed after facing the first five batters of the fourth inning.
Next up for the Wildcats is a three-game series next weekend against ACC foe Duke, with games scheduled each day from Friday through Sunday. Game times are set for 4 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
NOTES: Villanova reached 20 hits in a game today for only the eighth time since the 2000 season ... The 22 hits were the most in the 10-year head coaching tenure of Joe Godri, as the Wildcats last had this many hits in a 24-hit outburst against Philadelphia University on April 24, 2000 in a 23-11 victory ... Fleishman finished the weekend 8-for-12 (.667) at the plate with five runs, seven RBI, four extra-base hits and two walks, adding up to an on-base percentage of .714 and a slugging percentage of 1.083 for the series ... Villanova batted .377 and totaled 40 hits in the three games at Norfolk State ... Almonte is the first Villanova pitcher to record a win in his collegiate debut since Dan Farino started and pitched five innings in a 3-1 win over Buffalo on March 4, 2001 ... Farino wound up making 60 appearances in his Villanova career (2001-04) and remains in the program's top-10 for career appearances.