Last At-Bat Rally Foils Wildcats in 5-1 Loss at Duke
Feb. 26, 2011
DURHAM, N.C. - Junior lefty Kyle Helisek (Cranberry Township, Pa.) kept opposing hitters off balance through seven scoreless innings in his second start of the season but Villanova (2-3) eventually surrendered five runs to Duke (6-1) in the bottom of the eighth inning and dropped a 5-1 decision in the middle game of a three-game series at Jack Coombs Field on Saturday afternoon.
For the second straight day the Wildcats received a strong starting pitching performance but again fell victim to defensive miscues that played a key role in the final outcome. Villanova scored its lone run in the top of the second inning and nursed that lead until the eighth inning in what proved to be the Blue Devils final at-bat.
A wild pitch scored the tying run with one out and left another runner in scoring position at second base. A fielding error on the next play allowed the eventual winning run to score and led to three unearned runs scoring later in the inning.
Helisek was in complete control throughout after he retired 15 of the first 19 batters he faced and did not allow a hit through the first 5 1/3 innings. A one-out double by Chris Marconcini was the first hit off of him but Marconcini was cut down at third base for the second out in a defensive play that temporarily prevented Duke from plating the tying run (the batter after Marconcini reached on an error which would have tied the game had Marconcini not been thrown out at third).
In his seven innings of work, Helisek gave up just two hits while walking four and striking out three. He escaped a potential jam after a one-out double in the bottom of the seventh inning with a groundout and a strikeout to preserve his narrow lead.
The only run for the Wildcats came as a result of three straight hits strung together to start the second inning against Blue Devils starter Eric Pfisterer. Senior third baseman David Koczirka (Thornton, Pa.) led off with a single, senior second baseman Dain Hall (Barrington, Ill.) doubled down the left field line and freshman designated hitter Michael Erb (Camarillo, Calif.) singled up the middle to bring in the game's first run.
Erb finished the day 3-for-4, including a single in the top of the eighth inning which nearly sparked Villanova to another run-scoring rally. After there were two outs and nobody on in the eighth, Erb's single was followed by a hit batter and a walk to junior catcher Adam Nelson (St. Joseph, Mo.). Duke reliever Ben Grisz (1-0, 2.84 ERA) registered a strikeout to end the inning, however, and wound up going two scoreless innings in relief to earn the win.
Senior closer Mike Francisco (Newtown Square, Pa.) took the short end of the decision as the pitcher of record in the bottom of the eighth. He entered with a runner at second and one out and allowed a single before the wild pitch that tied the score at 1-1. Francisco (0-1, 6.75 ERA) surrendered hits to two o the three batters he faced in between the fielding error after junior Julian Diaz (Trenton, N.J.) allowed a leadoff double to start the inning.
Pfisterer allowed a run on six hits in six innings pitched, while walking three and striking out five. Marcus Stroman pitched a scoreless ninth.
The teams wrap up the series on Sunday at 1 p.m. with freshman right-hander Matt Lengel (Devon, Pa.) on the hill for the Wildcats to face Duke righty Dennis O'Grady.
NOTES: Francisco logged his 59th career appearance in today's game to move into the top-10 in school history in career games pitched ... He is tied for ninth place with Bob Grzenda (1999-02) and recently graduated Brian Streilein (2007-10), one behind Dan Farino (2001-04) for eighth place ... Junior left fielder Andrew Geenen (Portola Valley, Calif.) singled in the third inning and remains the only Wildcat hitter with at least one hit in all five games this season ... Villanova stranded 11 runners in the game and was 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position ... Through five games the Wildcats bullpen has allowed all four runners it has inherited to score.