March 28, 2014
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - Junior relief pitcher Matt Lengel (Devon, Pa.) inherited the potential tying and go-ahead runs with one out in the top of the fifth inning and preserved a one-run lead in what eventually became a 7-3 win for Villanova (8-15) in the opener of a three-game series against Wagner (2-16) at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on Friday afternoon. Sophomore first baseman Max Beermann (Tampa, Fla.) and senior center fielder Connor Jones (Chandler, Ariz.) each hit two-run home runs to pace the Wildcats offense, which produced five extra-base hits out of 10 total for the day.
Lengel (2-1, 2.81 ERA) wound up pitching 3 2/3 scoreless innings of relief, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out five. When he entered the game the Wildcats led 4-3 and the Seahawks had runners at first and second with one out in the fifth inning. Lengel picked the runner off second before even throwing a pitch and then registered a called third strike to get out of the inning with the lead intact. He allowed leadoff base runners in both the sixth and seventh innings but wound up retiring the last six batters he faced, with three of those outs coming on swinging third strikes.
Sophomore shortstop Eric Lowe (Arlington Heights, Ill.) was 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles and also added a walk to reach base safely in all four of his plate appearances. Jones and freshman second baseman Todd Czinege (Overland Park, Kan.) finished with two hits apiece and Czinege started a three-run rally in the bottom of the eighth inning with a leadoff triple as Villanova added late insurance runs.
In the bottom of the first inning Jones singled to right field with one out and Czinege hustled down the line to avoid a double play on a fielder's choice ground ball. Beermann followed by hitting a 2-2 pitch far over the right-center field fence. His second home run of the season gave the Wildcats a 2-0 lead and Villanova never relinquished the advantage against a resilient Wagner team.
Chris Smith hit a solo homer to left in the top of the third inning to cut the Wildcats lead to 2-1 but Villanova got two runs back in the bottom half to forge a 4-1 lead. Lowe led off the home half of the third inning with a double down the left field line and with one away Jones drove a 1-0 pitch to right-center for a two-run homer to nearly the same spot that Beermann's ball traveled.
Junior starting pitcher Josh Harris (Streamwood, Ill.) worked into the fifth inning and the Seahawks gradually chipped away at the three-run deficit. Vaughn Champion delivered a run-scoring single up the middle with one out in the top of the fourth inning and Tommy Mazurkiewicz hit an RBI double with one out in the fifth. Harris walked Jason Gordon after the double by Marzurkiewicz and turned the ball over to Lengel in a one-run game.
There was no other scoring in the game until the bottom of the eighth inning as Wagner starting pitcher Ryan Casey (0-4, 5.03 ERA) kept his team in the game. Casey allowed eight hits and four earned runs in 6 1/3 innings while walking one and striking out five. He gave up just two hits and a walk over his final 3 1/3 innings after yielding the two early home runs.
With Czinege at third and nobody out in the bottom of the eighth inning the Seahawks brought in 6-10 reliever Nolan Long to face the 6-7 Beermann in a matchup of the two tallest players on the field. Long got the upper hand with a strikeout but sophomore third baseman Kevin Jewitt (West Chester, Pa.) singled through the right side with the infield drawn in to make the score 5-3. Later in the inning Lowe walked with the bases loaded to force in a run, while a third run scored on a wild pitch.
Senior reliever Matt Meurer (Katy, Texas) pitched a scoreless ninth to close out the win.
The teams are scheduled to play the second game of the series on Saturday afternoon at 1:15 p.m.
NOTES: The game began nearly 15 minutes after it scheduled start time and neither team had batting or fielding practice on the field as a light rain moved through the area ... Additional wet weather is in the forecast for the remainder of the weekend ... Freshman right fielder Donovan May (Newark, Del.) caught a line drive and started a 9-3 double play to end the top of the sixth inning ... It was the 11th outfield assist of the season for the Wildcats and the second in as many days ... May has three of those assists ... Lengel's pickoff was his second of the season and the ninth of his career ... The last time there were three home runs hit in one game at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth was on May 14, 2010 against Notre Dame ... On that day the Wildcats also had two home runs and the visiting team one ... Villanova opened a three-game series against the Fighting Irish with a 12-5 victory that day.