March 19, 2010
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - Matt Szczur (Erma, N.J.) singled through the right side to score the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and Villanova (13-2) walked off with a win in dramatic fashion for the second straight day, this time with a 2-1 victory over Niagara (4-14) on Friday afternoon at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth. The Wildcats were down to their last strike with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth before storming back with big hits from Szczur and Paul Rambaud (Chicago, Ill.).
Both teams received dominant performances from their starting pitchers and not a single earned run was scored in the game. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Marlon Calbi (Montclair, N.J.) grounded to third with two outs but the throw to first base was in the dirt and got away for a two-base error. Rambaud followed by dropping a 1-and-2 pitch into center field for a single to score Calbi with the game-tying run. After a pitching change, Rambaud stole second base on the first pitch to Szczur and raced home one pitch later when Szczur delivered his third hit of the game.
Prior to the ninth inning heroics, Villanova rode the pitching of Brian Streilein (Staten Island, N.Y.) through the first eight innings of the game. Streilein struck out 10 batters without a single walk and scattered just 10 singles in his first appearance in more than two weeks due to the rain last weekend. He punched out two batters each in the first, second and fourth innings and went to a three-ball count just twice while facing 32 batters. The only run against him scored in the top of the sixth inning when Ryan McCauley hit a line drive off Streilein's leg and into center field to score Stephen Smith, who reached on an error to start the inning.
Kevin Crimmel (Harrisburg, Pa.) needed just 10 pitches to throw a scoreless ninth inning for the Wildcats and earn the win. Crimmel (4-0, 2.95 ERA) allowed a leadoff single to start the ninth before setting down the next three batters.
Everything Streilein did was matched by the Purple Eagles' Daniel Morari (0-5, 7.98 ERA), who carried a five-hit shutout with six strikeouts into the ninth inning before the Wildcats got themselves going. Morari retired 15 of the first 17 batters he faced through five innings before Villanova threatened in the sixth and seventh innings. He wound up allowing six hits and walking three in his strongest outing of the season.
The first signs of life for the Wildcat offense came in the bottom of the sixth inning after Rambaud reached on an error to start the inning. Szczur bunted for a single but, after the throw to first base got away, Rambaud was thrown out trying to advance from second to third base. Szczur was still at first when Tyler Sciacca (Staten Island, N.Y.) doubled down the left field line to put two runners in scoring position with one out. After an intentional walk to load the bases, Morari escaped trouble with an infield fly and a strikeout.
Villanova had the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the seventh but still were unable to break through onto the scoreboard. Matt Fleishman (Commack, N.Y.) drew a leadoff walk, Adam Nelson (St. Joseph, Mo.) was safe at first on a botched sacrifice bunt and Calbi bunted for a single. Rambaud, however, bounced into a 1-2-3 double play and Sciacca flied out to end the threat.
Szczur finished the day 3-for-4 with a walk and a stolen base and was the only Wildcat with more than one hit. Villanova had a season-low seven hits and failed to put a double-figure hit total on the board for the first time this season. During his start, Morari held the heart of the Wildcat order to going 0-for-11 with two strikeouts.
Geoff Strong entered the game in the bottom of the ninth inning with Rambaud at first and two outs. He threw just three pitches, with his final one being the walk-off hit by Szczur. McCauley went 3-for-4 with an RBI for Niagara.
Villanova hosts Marist on Saturday at 1:15 p.m.
NOTES: The Wildcats defeated University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, 4-3, in yesterday's game, which featured a walk-off single by Fleishman ... Villanova has won a season-high six straight games ... Streilein lowered his ERA to 2.30 on the season and has now walked just eight and struck out 33 in 27 1/3 innings pitched ... Justin Bencsko (Pompton Plains, N.J.) pinch-hit with one out in the ninth inning and dragged a bunt through the infield towards second baseman Cam Stykemain ... He was called out on an extremely close play at first base and saw his nine-game hitting streak come to an end ... Sciacca has the team's longest current hit streak at six games.