Bullpen Solid but Wildcats Edged by Connecticut, 7-6
March 16, 2014
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - Two former BIG EAST foes met on the type of frigid and blustery day that seems to define baseball in the Northeast and Villanova (5-12) came up just short in a 7-6 loss to Connecticut (8-8) at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on Sunday afternoon. All of the runs in the game scored in the first five innings but the bullpens took over late and the Huskies held off a rally attempt by the Wildcats in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Sophomore catcher Emmanuel Morris (Willowbrook, Ill.) had his first career four-hit game and freshman designated hitter Brian Trabulsi (Malverne, N.Y.) had three hits for Villanova, which trailed 6-0 early before making a game of it with a five-run third inning. Sophomore left fielder Adam Goss (Bellaire, Texas) added two hits and reached base safely four times for the Wildcats, who wound up outhitting Connecticut by a 12-11 margin.
Both starting pitchers left the game in the third inning and Villanova got a big lift from its bullpen, including four scoreless innings from junior Kagan Richardson (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) and a hitless ninth inning for senior Matt Lengel (Devon, Pa.) which gave the Wildcats a chance to mount a comeback.
In the bottom of the ninth inning Trabulsi singled through the left side with one out and Villanova turned to its bunt game, which had been a key part of the five-run third inning. Sophomore shortstop Eric Lowe (Arlington Heights, Ill.) attempted to bunt for a single but was thrown out at first on what became a sacrifice instead, with Trabulsi advancing to second. Morris then reached on an infield hit which moved the potential tying run to third base and brought senior pinch hitter John Cialone (Houston, Texas) to the plate with two outs.
The second pitch to Cialone was in the dirt and Huskies catcher Connor David made a game-saving block to keep the ball in front of him and thwart the runners from advancing. Connecticut reliever David Mahoney eventually got Cialone to fly to left field to end the game.
A pair of errors by the Wildcats defense helped the Huskies put together a big inning against junior starter Max Almonte (Long Beach, N.Y.) in the top of the second. Almonte (1-1, 5.11 ERA) had retired the side in order in the first inning but Connecticut batted around in the second and plated five runs, just two of which were earned. After two runs had already scored in the inning Aaron Hill and Jack Sundberg hit consecutive RBI singles with still just one out and Eric Yavarone grounded out to drive in another run.
In the top of the third inning Bobby Melley drew a leadoff walk for the Huskies and scored from second with one out when Nico Darras hit a soft liner to short and Lowe couldn't hang on to a ball which was just out of his reach. There were runners at first and second after the hit by Darras and sophomore left-hander Jeff Courter (Maple Glen, Pa.) entered to relieve Almonte. Connecticut attempted a double steal with one out and David at the plate but both runners were caught in between bases and Bryan Daniello was thrown out for the second out on a well-executed 2-6-5-4-1 rundown by the Villanova defense.
Courter struck out David to end the inning and wound up allowing a run on two hits in his 1 2/3 innings of work. Hill led off the fourth inning with a single and scored on Blake Davey's two-out double to left before Courter, Richardson and Lengel kept the Huskies off the board from that point on.
In the bottom of the third inning Morris started the five-run rally with a double down the left field line. Goss smacked an RBI double two batters later and the Wildcats had runners at the corners with nobody out. Connecticut starting pitcher Brian Ward retired the next two batters but for the second straight day the Villanova offense was at its best with two outs.
Redshirt freshman right fielder Mike Mecca (Ridgefield, N.J.) scored from third on a balk and Ward issued consecutive walks to sophomore third baseman Kevin Jewitt (West Chester, Pa.) and senior center fielder Connor Jones (Chandler, Ariz.). Reliever Anthony Kay (1-1, 1.76 ERA) replaced Ward with the bases loaded and that was when the Wildcats really kicked their small-ball offense into top gear. Trabulsi reached on an infield hit to drive in the third run of the inning, Lowe waited out Kay for a full-count walk which forced in another run and Morris pushed a bunt single up the third base line to cap the scoring in the inning.
In the bottom of the fifth inning Trabulsi doubled to left and scored with two outs on Morris' single to right field but Kay got Goss to ground out for the final out of the inning with two men on.
Villanova returns to action with two upcoming midweek games, the first of which is a return trip to La Salle on Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m.