March 23, 2013
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - On yet another cold and breezy day at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth offense continued to be hard to come by for both teams as Villanova (5-14) lost by a 3-2 score to Cornell (9-5) in the opener of a three-game series on Friday afternoon. Junior starting pitcher Pat Young (The Woodlands, Texas) continued his recent run of dominance for the Wildcats with six strong innings, during which he struck out six and allowed just one earned run.
The temperature was only in the mid-40's at the start of the game and the cold weather, combined with the stiff wind that generally blows in from the outfield, continues to hamper offensive production during Villanova home games. The last five contests at the Wildcats home venue have led to a combined 24 runs by both Villanova and its opponents, with nearly half of that scoring (10 runs out of the 24) coming in one game. Today's game against the Big Red also marked the third one-run loss in the last five home games.
All but one of the runs in the game came in the fourth and seventh innings. Cornell opened the scoring with a single run in the top of the third and then extended its lead to 2-0 in the fourth inning. In the home half of the fourth the Wildcats got on the board to cut the deficit to 2-1, but Villanova was unable to tie the game despite having the potential equalizer in scoring position with nobody out.
In the top of the seventh the Big Red added a run to go ahead 3-1, but once again the Wildcats answered in their next turn at the plate. Villanova trailed 3-2 at that point but left the potential tying run at second base in both the seventh and eighth innings.
The runners left on base - the Wildcats stranded 11 in the game - did not tell the whole story, however. Villanova recorded four of its seven hits in the game with runners in scoring position (4-for-16), while Cornell was only 2-for-10 in RBI opportunities. Each of the two hits with runner in scoring position for the Big Red came from Tom D'Alessandro, who had an RBI double in the third inning and a run-scoring single in the top of the seventh. Each of his hits came with two outs.
Young has allowed just two earned runs over 20.0 innings pitched in his last three starts. During that stretch he has posted a 0.90 ERA and racked up 35 strikeouts while allowing just 11 hits and five walks (.157 opponent batting average, 0.80 WHIP).
The pitching effort as a whole for the Wildcats was a strong one. Senior relievers Kevin MacLachlan (Matawan, N.J.) and Matt Longfield (Miami, Fla.) combined to pitch the final three innings without allowing an earned run. An unearned run scored off MacLachlan in the top of the seventh but he retired four of the last five batters he faced and Longfield struck out two in a scoreless ninth. Longfield is tied for the team lead with nine appearances out of the bullpen this season and he has yet to allow a hit to the 34 batters he has faced.
Senior left fielder Steve Schrenk (Brigantine, N.J.) and junior right fielder Connor Jones (Chandler, Ariz.) each had RBI singles to drive in the Villanova runs. In the bottom of the fourth inning freshman designated hitter Luke Emling (Nottingham, Pa.) led off with a single and junior catcher John Cialone (Houston, Texas) before Jones pulled an 0-2 pitch through the right side to get the Wildcats into the scoring column.
Villanova used its depth to its advantage in the bottom of the seventh inning. Junior pinch hitter Kevin Rojko (San Jose, Calif.) led off the inning with a walk and sophomore Brandon Carr (Danville, Calif.) came off the bench with two outs to extend the inning with a single. Schrenk followed by hitting a 2-2 pitch into right-center field to score make the score 3-2 before Cornell reliever Mike Kazley got Emling to fly out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth inning Kazley hit Jones and freshman third baseman Kevin Jewitt (West Chester, Pa.) in successive plate appearances with one out. Matt Horton then replaced Kazley and retired the final two batters of the inning to preserve the one-run Big Red lead. Houston Hawley pitched a scoreless ninth for his first save.
Cornell starting pitcher Nick Busto (2-0, 1.44 ERA) allowed two earned runs on five hits in six-plus innings of work. He walked four and struck out four, exiting in the bottom of the seventh inning after walking Rojko to start the frame.
The second game of the three-game series is on Saturday afternoon at 1:15 p.m.
NOTES: Over the last six games the Wildcats pitching staff has a 2.94 ERA, while the defense has committed just three errors and played to a .985 fielding percentage ... Young is averaging 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings in his six starts this season (34.0 innings pitched, 40 strikeouts) ... Opposing batters are 0-for-23 with 12 strikeouts against Longfield this season ... Schrenk extended his streak of reaching base safely to 14 straight games ... That ties senior center fielder Paul Rambaud (Chicago, Ill.) for the longest on the team this season.