March 13, 2011
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - Led by hits from seven different players and solid pitching throughout the game Villanova (5-9) snapped a four-game losing streak and defeated Cornell (1-6) by a final score of 6-3 at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth in the final game of this weekend's Villanova Classic on Sunday afternoon. It was the team's first home win in four tries this week after the Wildcats rallied to tie the game in the sixth inning, take the lead for good in the seventh and provide some insurance in the eighth.
Junior first baseman Kevin Wager (Fairfax, Va.) batted leadoff for the first time in his career and had three hits to spark a lineup that produced 11 hits on the day, a welcome sign after Villanova averaged fewer than six hits per contest during its four-game skid. Junior right fielder Matt Fleishman (East Northport, N.Y.) and freshman designated hitter Tyler Reich (Ocean City, N.J.) had two hits apiece.
Supporting the offense was steady pitching from freshman Max Almonte (Long Beach, N.Y.) in his first collegiate start, in addition to an outstanding relief effort from freshman Pat Young (The Woodlands, Texas) and a 1-2-3 ninth inning thrown by senior closer Mike Francisco (Newtown Square, Pa.).
Also helping the cause for the Wildcats was six errors committed by the Big Red, including one in the bottom of the second inning which allowed Reich to score the first run of the game. He opened the inning with a single, took second on a wild pitch and moved up to third on a fly out before coming in to score with two outs on a fielding error that prolonged the inning.
Villanova made mistakes of its own in the top of the fourth inning, however, and Cornell managed to plate three runs to forge a 3-1 lead. The inning started with an error that opened the door for the Big Red and with runners at second and third with one down Conor McCabe hit a line drive that ricocheted off Almonte's leg and went for a hard-hit single that brought home a run. A wild pitch led to a second run before Branton Peters singled to bring in the third run of the frame.
There was a quick answer from the Wildcats in the home half of the fourth inning as senior second baseman Dain Hall (Barrington, Ill.) led off by driving a double to right field. One out later, senior third baseman David Koczirka (Thornton, Pa.) snuck a ball through the right side for a run-scoring single that brought in Hall and narrowed the gap to 3-2.
Hall later led off the bottom of the sixth inning and hit the ball well again, with a fly to right-center which was dropped for a two-base error. Reich's second hit of the game moved him up to third and Koczirka bounced into a fielder's choice which allowed Hall to score the tying run.
In the bottom of the seventh inning Villanova loaded the bases with nobody out when junior center fielder Jordan Zech (Naples, Fla.) was hit by a pitch, Wager singled and junior shortstop Marlon Calbi (Montclair, N.J.) bunted for a hit. After a strikeout for the first out of the inning Hall hit a potential double play grounder to shortstop but the ball was booted and Zech scored the go-ahead and eventual winning run.
Junior catcher Adam Nelson (St. Joseph, Mo.) singled to lead off the bottom of the eighth and moved up two bases on a failed pickoff attempt before Zech drew a walk and Wager bunted for a single to load the bases. Everyone was safe on the next play when Calbi reached on a fielder's choice which was thrown away in an attempt to make a force-out at the plate, and Fleishman followed with a run-scoring single for the final score of the game.
While the Wildcats were making their move at the plate, Young (1-0, 3.86 ERA) was setting down just about everyone that stepped into the box against him. He pitched four hitless innings of scoreless relief with one walk and five strikeouts to earn his first collegiate victory. Young set the side down in order in the fifth and seventh innings and escaped a bases loaded jam in the sixth by getting cleanup hitter Brandon Lee to pop up to shortstop.
Francisco faced the heart of the Cornell batting order in the ninth and recorded a strikeout and pair of pop-ups to earn his third save of the season and 14th of his career.
The bullpen did an excellent job of backing up Almonte, who allowed two earned runs in four innings and only ran into trouble during a long fourth inning in which eight men came to the plate. Almonte scattered six hits while walking two and striking out one.
Relief pitcher Rick Marks (0-1, 6.23) was on the short end of the decision for the Big Red after pitching two innings of relief. He allowed five hits and three runs (two earned) with a walk and three strikeouts after starter Jadd Schmeltzer surrendered three runs (one earned) in six innings of work.
Villanova went 1-2 in its home tournament this weekend and will return to action on Tuesday with a 3 p.m. game against Saint Joseph's. That contest will be played at Campbell's Field in Camden, N.J.
NOTES: Young made two relief appearances this week and combined to allow just one run on three hits in 6 1/3 innings, with three walks and nine strikeouts ... Francisco's 14th career save moves him into a tie for fourth place in school history with Brian Manning (1998-00) and leaves him just one shy of tying for third with 15 along with David Hunt (1991-94) ... Francisco also made his 63rd career appearance to tie Gus Guida (2005-08) for sixth place in the school record book ... Next up ahead of him are Manning and Adrian Schau (2001-04) in a tie for fourth place with 64 games pitched.