March 5, 2013
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. - Pinch hitter Karch Kowalczyk singled home the winning run with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning as Villanova (1-7) lost a narrow 7-6 decision to Valparaiso (3-7) at North Charlotte Regional Park on Tuesday afternoon. The tying and winning runs both scored with one out in the ninth inning for the Crusaders, who had trailed the entire game up to that point.
Earlier in the game the Wildcats scored four runs in the top of the first inning to build a quick 4-0 lead and later scored twice more in the top of the fifth inning for a 6-2 advantage. Valparaiso chipped away with runs in three straight innings from the fourth through the sixth to pull to within 6-5 but it appeared that Villanova would hold on to its slim lead until the game came down to the final batters.
Senior first baseman Brandon Clark (Spring, Texas) and junior catcher John Cialone (Houston, Texas) each drove in two runs for the Wildcats, who had a season-high 12 hits. Cialone had two hits and two runs scored, while sophomore third baseman B.J. Bochicchio (Moosic, Pa.) and senior shortstop Tyler Sciacca (Staten Island, N.Y.) also had two hits apiece.
Villanova touched Crusaders starter Dalton Lundeen for eight hits and six runs in 4 2/3 innings before the Valparaiso bullpen combined for 4 1/3 scoreless innings with four hits allowed and five strikeouts.
Two walks and a hit batter loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth inning and the Crusaders had the table set for their final comeback. Elliott Martin hit a ball up the middle which Sciacca snagged to get a difficult out at first base, but all three runners moved up a base on the play. Tanner Vavra scored the tying run and Kowalczyk followed by driving a 2-1 offering to right-center field that was over the head of the Wildcats outfielders.
All of the scoring for Villanova came during its rallies in the first and fifth innings. Senior center fielder Paul Rambaud (Chicago, Ill.) drew a seven-pitch walk to start the game and Bochicchio followed by hitting a two-strike pitch off the fence in left-center field for an RBI triple. Sciacca reached on an infield hit and Cialone singled home the second run of the game, with the Wildcats still having runners at the corners and nobody out.
Senior left fielder Steve Schrenk (Brigantine, N.J.) followed by hitting into a fielder's choice but Sciacca stayed in a rundown between third base and home for long enough that Cialone could go first to third and Schrenk could get all the way to second. Five pitchers later Clark lined a ball down the left field line to plate two runs and give Villanova a four-run lead.
Valparaiso got one run back in the first inning but then was mostly held in check by senior starting pitcher Kevin MacLachlan (Matawan, N.J.), who allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits in 4 1/3 innings pitched. Bryce Hara hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fourth inning to pull the Crusaders to within 4-2 but the Wildcats got two runs back in the top half of the fifth inning.
Rambaud singled to center field to lead off the fifth inning and was in scoring position with two outs when back-to-back singles by Cialone and Schrenk led to a pair of runs. Cialone singled to left field to score Rambaud, took second on the relay throw to the plate and then advanced to third when another relay throw - this one to second base - was offline and got away from the shortstop near the second base bag. Schrenk then scored Cialone with another single to left field, which chased Lundeen from the game.
In the bottom of the fifth inning MacLachlan allowed an RBI single to Andrew Bain and a sacrifice fly to John Loeffler which pulled Valparaiso to within 6-4. With a runner at first and one out freshman Max Beermann (Tampa, Fla.) relieved MacLachlan and needed just one pitch to get out of the inning. His first offering to Martin was a line drive to short which Sciacca caught and threw to first for a double play.
Beermann allowed one run on one hit over 2 1/3 innings of relief, while junior Chris Haggarty (Valley Stream, N.Y.) and senior Matt Longfield (Miami, Fla.) combined on a scoreless eighth inning. Longfield struck out Crusaders leadoff hitter Spencer Mahoney to end the eighth inning with runners at second and third.
Ben Mahar (2-0, 4.76 ERA) pitched a scoreless top of the ninth inning and was the winning pitcher for Valparaiso, while sophomore JB Kole (Basking Ridge, N.J.) took the loss for Villanova.
The Wildcats play the final game of their Spring Break trip to Florida on Wednesday morning against Northeastern at 11 a.m. The game will take place on Field #6 at the North Charlotte Regional Park.