April 1, 2014
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - Two longtime local rivals each showed their best efforts in a seesaw affair that had five ties and four lead changes but Villanova (8-16) was ultimately defeated by an 8-6 score in 10 innings as Saint Joseph's (13-7) advanced in the first round of the Liberty Bell Classic at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on Tuesday afternoon. The visiting Hawks scored two runs to tie the game in the top of the ninth inning and went in front for good with two more tallies in the top of the 10th.
Both teams finished the day with 10 hits and the Wildcats had hits from eight of their starters while also being hit by a pitch four times and walking another four times. Senior center fielder Connor Jones (Chandler, Ariz.) and freshman second baseman Todd Czinege (Overland Park, Kan.) had two hits apiece and each drove in a run. Sophomore catcher Emmanuel Morris (Willowbrook, Ill.) batted leadoff for the first time in his career and produced a single, a walk and two runs batted in.
At least one of the teams scored in five of the first six innings but the back-and-forth volleys seemed to end after Villanova plated three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take a 6-4 lead. That advantage held up until there were two outs in the top of the ninth inning, when a two-run single by Ryan Pater drove in the tying runs that extended the game. Mike Muha and Kevin Kratochwill each walked to start the top of the ninth and both later delivered run-scoring singles in the 10th inning.
Even after giving up the lead in the top of the ninth the Wildcats nearly won the game in the bottom half when sophomore first baseman Max Beermann (Tampa, Fla.) smacked the first pitch of the inning for a double to left field. Sophomore third baseman Kevin Jewitt (West Chester, Pa.) sacrificed him to third base and Saint Joseph's issued consecutive intentional walks to load the bases with one away and set up a potential force play at any base. It never came to that possibility however, as Hawks reliever Steven Schuler (2-0, 0.00 ERA) wriggled out of the inning with a pair of strikeouts to leave the bases loaded.
Villanova went to extra innings for the third time this season and senior reliever Matt Meurer (Katy, Texas) retired the first batter on a groundout in the top of the 10th inning before Saint Joseph's made its final rally. Collin Forgey doubled to the gap in right-center field and Tommy Cunningham singled through the right side to advance the potential winning-run to third base. Muha was up next and, after Meurer (1-2, 1.48 ERA) quickly got ahead of him 1-and-2, fouled off two straight pitches before working the count even and then lining an RBI single to center field to bring home the go-ahead run.
Kratochwill followed with a single to left field to drive in another run and make the score 8-6, although Muha was thrown out trying to go first-to-third on the throw to the plate and Meurer then struck out Taylor Boyd to end the inning.
In the bottom half of the 10th inning Jones bunted for a single with one out to get the tying run to the plate but Schuler retired Czinege on a fielder's choice and Beermann on a groundout back to first base. Schuler had entered the game after Beermann's double in the ninth inning and wound up recording the final six outs of the game to earn the win.
With the teams scheduled to play again tomorrow at the Hawks' Smithson Field, and with both sides also preparing for conference series this weekend, the two starting pitchers in the game were each lifted after working a pre-planned two innings. Freshman lefty Hunter Schryver (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) allowed a run in the top of the first inning but bounced back to strike out three while allowing just one hit and one walk in his two innings of work.
Senior reliever Chris Haggarty (Valley Cottage, N.Y.) allowed two runs (one earned) in the top of the fourth inning and junior Kagan Richardson (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) yielded another run in the visitors half of the fifth inning.
Richardson entered a 3-3 game to start the fifth inning and promptly allowed a bunt single to Ryan Pater and an RBI double off the bat of Chris Hueth which forged a 4-3 Saint Joseph's lead. From that point on Richardson pitched at another level though, as he retired the final nine batters he faced to end up allowing just two hits and a run over three innings of work. Junior right-hander Matt Lengel (Devon, Pa.) pitched a perfect eighth inning to extend the streak to 12 straight Hawks batters retired but he then walked the first two batters in the ninth inning when Saint Joseph's rallied to tie the game.
The first two Wildcats runs scored with two outs in the bottom of the second inning to give Villanova a 2-1 lead. Jewitt singled to start the inning and freshman designated hitter Brian Trabulsi (Malverne, N.Y.) was hit by a pitch but a fielder's choice on a sacrifice bunt attempt was followed by a strikeout and the Hawks nearly escaped the inning. Sophomore left fielder Adam Goss (Bellaire, Texas) was hit by a pitch to extend the frame, Trabulsi scored from third on a passed ball and Morris dropped a bunt down the third base line for a run-scoring single.
Cunningham scored for Saint Joseph's on a passed ball in the top of the fourth inning and Boyd drove in another run with a sacrifice fly to put the Hawks back in front 3-2. In the home half of the fourth inning Goss tripled to deep right field to drive in sophomore shortstop Eric Lowe (Arlington Heights, Ill.) to tie the game at 4-4.
In the bottom of the sixth inning Trabulsi led off with an infield single and freshman right fielder Donovan May (Newark, Del.) was hit by a pitch for the second straight at-bat since he entered the game. That auspicious start eventually became a three-run inning which included Morris walking with the bases loaded as well as an RBI single by Jones and a sacrifice fly by Czinege.
Villanova and Saint Joseph's have now split a pair of meetings this season, with each side winning on the other's home field. In their first game after returning from a Spring Break trip to Florida, the Wildcats tallied an 8-2 victory against the Hawks on March 7. The all-time series between the schools dates all the way back to 1920 and today's game was the 118th meeting between the teams.
There will be two more games played this year, beginning with Wednesday afternoon's 3 p.m. contest at Smithson Field in Merion Station. Later this month the Hawks return to Plymouth Meeting for a 3:15 p.m. game on April 15.
NOTES: Villanova is 28-18 (.609) all-time in the Liberty Bell Classic ... Saint Joseph's advances to a second round game against either Penn or Lafayette next Tuesday ... Last season the Wildcats reached the championship game of the local tournament for the second time in the last three years.