March 21, 2012
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - On a day when the two teams combined to strand 22 runners on base Villanova (13-9) struggled to execute in the later innings and fell by a score of 6-3 to Penn (5-8) at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on Tuesday afternoon. The loss was the third in the last four games for the Wildcats, who only trailed in the final three innings of the contest.
Villanova led 2-0 early on but the Quakers scored two runs in three consecutive innings from the sixth through the eighth innings. Their two-run rally in the top of the sixth tied the score at 2-2 and two more runs in the seventh put Penn ahead for the first time at 4-2.
In the bottom of the seventh inning the Wildcats loaded the bases with nobody out and again with just one away but had to settle for one run which scored on a well-hit sacrifice fly to left. The seventh inning ended with Villanova down by just one run, 4-3, but the Quakers added the final two runs of the game in the top of the eighth to give themselves some insurance for the final six outs.
Junior shortstop Tyler Sciacca (Staten Island, N.Y.) went 4-for-5 with a triple and a run scored but the Wildcats offense was otherwise mostly kept in check by Penn pitching. Villanova had just two other hits in addition to the four by Sciacca, although the on-base game was working with six walks and one hit batter.
Sciacca ripped a hard single to center with one out in the bottom of the second inning to account for the first hit of the game either way. He stole second, later took third on a failed pickoff attempt and scored on a single by freshman first baseman Brandon Carr (Danville, Calif.) to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the fourth inning Sciacca led off with a single up the middle and Villanova eventually scored its second run when junior catcher Brandon Clark (Spring, Texas) scored on bases-loaded walk to junior left fielder Paul Rambaud (Chicago, Ill.).
Through the first three innings it was the Quakers who struggled to get runners home and Penn went 0-for-8 with runners on base against freshman right-hander JB Kole (Basking Ridge, N.J.), who allowed just one hit in three scoreless innings in his first start.
Kole had runners at second and third with only one out in the top of the first inning but struck out cleanup hitter Ryan Deitrich ahead of a fly out by Rick Brebner to escape the inning unharmed. In the top of the third Brandon Engelhardt led off with a triple but never advanced from third as Kole once again worked his way out of the inning with no damage done.
In the sixth and seventh innings the Quakers eventually reached freshman left-handers Jeff Courter (Maple Glen, Pa.) and Josh Harris (Streamwood, Ill.) for two runs each, with Harris (0-1, 9.00 ERA) getting charged with the loss.
Once the game was tied at 2-2 in the top of the sixth inning Penn turned to Connor Cuff (1-1, 4.05 ERA) to go the rest of the way out of the bullpen. Cuff entered in the bottom of the sixth and struck out eight batters over four innings of relief while allowing just two hits, two walks and one run.
This weekend the Wildcats open BIG EAST play by hosting a three-game series against St. John's. The series opener is scheduled for Friday afternoon at 3:15 p.m., with the next two games slated for Saturday (1:15 p.m.) and Sunday (12:15 p.m.) afternoons.
NOTES: Villanova was 2-for-9 (.222) with runners in scoring position in today's game while the Quakers were just 3-for-14 (.214) ... Senior designated hitter Matt Fleishman (East Northport, N.Y.) singled in the bottom of the seventh inning to extend his hitting streak to 13 games, the longest on the team this season ... Sciacca has now hit safely in nine consecutive games, while senior third baseman Kevin Wager (Holden, Mo.) had an 11-game streak snapped ... Penn's first three hits of the game were triples and the Quakers finished with four triples among their 11 total hits.