March 29, 2011
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - Sophomore starting pitcher Kevin MacLachlan (Matawan, N.J.) pitched seven strong innings in his best outing of the season and Villanova (11-13) advanced to the semifinals of the Liberty Bell Classic with a 5-3 win over Lafayette (5-14) at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on Tuesday afternoon. The win sets up a meeting between the Wildcats and La Salle next Tuesday (April 5) with a berth in the championship game at Citizens Bank Park at stake.
Save for a complicated top of the ninth inning it was smooth sailing all around for Villanova in the game, as the Wildcats had 12 hits and scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to take charge in the game. Eight of the nine starters in the lineup had at least one hit.
On the mound, MacLachlan (1-3, 4.37 ERA) allowed just one earned run on five hits in seven innings pitched, while walking one and striking out six. Sophomore reliever Stephen Ostapeck (Sacramento, Calif.) pitched a scoreless eighth inning and junior Julian Diaz (Trenton, N.J.) came on to register the final two outs in the ninth for his first save.
In the bottom of the fifth inning junior catcher Adam Nelson (St. Joseph, Mo.) singled and was at second base with two outs when Villanova strung together six consecutive singles to plate its four runs in the inning. Senior third baseman David Koczirka (Thornton, Pa.) and junior shortstop Marlon Calbi (Montclair, N.J.) had back-to-back run-scoring hits for the Wildcats while junior right fielder Matt Fleishman (East Northport, N.Y.) and junior left fielder Andrew Geenen (Portola Valley, Calif.) later had RBI singles of their own.
Villanova opened the scoring in the bottom of the third inning when Nelson doubled down the left field line with one out, moved up to third on a single by junior center fielder Jordan Zech (Naples, Fla.) and came home on a sacrifice fly by Koczirka.
The one-run lead for the Wildcats did not last long, as the Leopards came back to tie the game at 1-1 in the top of the fourth inning. Alex Bechta singled with one out, stole second and scored on a double by cleanup hitter A.J. Miller. The rally went no further though, as MacLachlan got a groundball for the second out and struck out Scott Kelleher to end the frame.
MacLachlan was in complete control throughout his start and all six of his strikeouts came on swinging third strikes. After being spotted a 5-1 lead thanks to Villanova's four runs in the bottom of the fifth MacLachlan did a good job of staying out of potential trouble in the top of the sixth inning.
Leadoff hitter Rob Froio walked leading off the sixth inning and Brain Davila reached on an error to put two runners on base with nobody out. Bechta grounded out to advance both runners to second and third with one away and Miller coming up to the plate. Miller got ahead in the count 2-and-1 but MacLachlan came back to strike him out before getting Matt Fenster to fly out to center to end the inning.
Starting pitcher Michael Massa (0-2, 7.45 ERA) went the first 4 2/3 innings for Lafayette and was charged with nine hits and five earned runs allowed. Five of the hits came in the bottom of the fifth inning and reliever Chris Boyce allowed two more hits in the frame as the Wildcats accumulated seven of their 12 hits in that inning.
Villanova plays at home for a fourth consecutive weekend this Friday through Sunday when it hosts USF in a three-game BIG EAST series. The series begins on Friday at 3:15 p.m. and continues with games on Saturday at 1:15 p.m. and Sunday at 12:15 p.m.
NOTES: Last season the Wildcats also won their first round Liberty Bell Classic game but were defeated, 4-3, by Lehigh in the semifinals ... Villanova last appeared in the championship game in 2009 ... The six strikeouts for MacLachlan were a career high ... Calbi, Fleishman and Nelson all finished the day with two hits for the Wildcats ... Fleishman has now reached base safely via a hit or a walk in 20 consecutive games.