Wildcats Edge Bucknell 6-5 to Win Home Opener
March 9, 2010
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - David Koczirka (Thornton, Pa.) beat out an infield single with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning to allow the go-ahead run to score and Villanova (10-2) did enough little things right to win its home opener, 6-5, over Bucknell (5-6) on Tuesday afternoon at a sunny and surprisingly warm Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth.
Five runs came home in the first two innings for the Wildcats, who built a 5-0 lead before the Bison gradually scored five unanswered runs of their own to tie the game at 5-5 in the top of the sixth inning. Villanova gained the edge it needed in its final at-bat and rode the steady relief pitching of Kevin Crimmel (Harrisburg, Pa.) and Mike Francisco (Newtown Square, Pa.) to its 10th win of the season.
It may have been the first home game of the year for the Wildcats, but their fans were treated to trademark Villanova baseball everywhere they looked. Entering the game, Dain Hall (Barrington, Ill.) led the BIG EAST Conference in walks and Marlon Calbi (Montclair, N.J.) was tied for the league lead in sacrifice bunts. Hall walked in his first three plate appearances today and Calbi laid down two more sacrifices, including one that helped set up the game-winning run in the eighth inning.
Tyler Sciacca (Staten Island, N.Y.) led off the home half of the eighth with a single to center field for his third hit of the game. Calbi followed with a sacrifice and Matt Szczur (Erma, N.J.) directed a seeing-eye single up the middle that was knocked down to keep Sciacca at second on the play. A wild pitch moved the runners up to second and third with one away, but a groundball out kept them there with two down. Koczirka followed and ripped a 1-and-2 pitch right at the third baseman, who got in front of the ball but couldn't field it cleanly before Koczirka was safe at first and Sciacca was able to score.
In the ninth, Francisco worked around a single and a hit batter to pick up his second save of the year. Crimmel (3-0, 3.52 ERA) was outstanding in a 4 1/3 inning relief outing, during which he allowed just two hits and one earned run while walking one and striking out three to pick up the win.
Szczur, Justin Bencsko (Pompton Plains, N.J.) and Chris Johnson (Shrewsbury, N.J.) all had three hits for the Wildcats, who have had at least 10 hits in every game this season. Villanova's speed was evident from the early going, when Szczur and Bencsko each beat out doubles on softly hit balls into the shallow outfield.
Leading off off the bottom of the first inning, Szczur rolled a ball through the hole on the left side and raced into second with a double ahead of the routine throw in made by an unsuspecting left fielder. On the very next play, Bencsko dropped a ball into shallow right-center field for a double of his own. Szczur had to hold up at second until the ball dropped and advanced only to third, but Bencsko scampered into second before the ball got back to the infield. A run-scoring single by Johnson and an RBI groundout by Kevin Wager (Chester, Va.) produced a quick 2-0 lead for the Wildcats.
In the second inning, Villanova had runners at the corners with one down following singles by Sciacca and Szczur sandwiched in between the first sacrifice bunt of the game from Calbi. The Wildcats plated three runs on three straight at-bats when Bencsko doubled in a run, Koczirka grounded out to bring home a run and Johnson singled a second time to put the Wildcats up 5-0.
Bucknell started to chip away at the five-run deficit when a two-out triple by Doug Shribman in the top of the third inning got the Bison on the board. Bucknell got two more runs in the top of the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly from Ben Yoder and a run-scoring single by Drew Constable, the latter of which knocked out starting pitcher Kevin MacLachlan (Matawan, N.J.) after 3 2/3 innings of work. MacLachlan gave up only five hits while allowing four earned runs in his second collegiate start. He walked two and struck out one.
Crimmel entered the game with runners at first and second with two outs in the fourth inning and promptly struck out cleanup hitter Andrew Brouse to retire the side. Crimmel wound up retiring the final seven batters he faced, including a strikeout of Shribman with two outs and the bases loaded after the tying run had scored in the top of the sixth inning.
Relief pitcher Russell Seidell (0-1, 7.71 ERA) took the loss despite pitching effectively for three innings out of the bullpen. He allowed five hits and the game-winning run without a walk or a strikeout in his outing. Starter Daniel Hart allowed seven hits and five earned runs while throwing 50 pitches just in the first two innings.
Villanova has won its home opener every year since the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth opened in 2003. The Wildcats are 8-0 in home openers at the venue. This coming weekend is the Villanova Classic at the stadium, where Villanova will entertain Cornell, Hofstra and Northeastern from Friday through Sunday. The Wildcats face Cornell on Friday at 2:45 p.m. in the opening game of the tournament.
NOTES: Villanova had four doubles in the game on Tuesday and Hall stole a pair of bases ... Calbi has six sacrifice bunts in the season's first 12 games, matching his total from the 43 games he played in as a freshman last year.