April 3, 2012
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - Tuesday afternoon's baseball game had a little bit of everything to keep those who witnessed it on the edge of their seat, from a no-hit bid to huge swings in momentum and finally to a two-run rally to win the game. The first eight innings were pretty entertaining as well but all of the above happened in the ninth inning alone. In a game that will be remembered for far more than being a typical midweek non-conference game a dramatic finish at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth reached its crescendo when Villanova (16-14) scored the tying and game-winning runs on consecutive pitches in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat Lafayette (8-18-1) in walk-off fashion by a 2-1 final score.
Junior center fielder Paul Rambaud (Chicago, Ill.) hit a sacrifice fly to right-center field to score the game-winning run one pitch after senior first baseman Adam Nelson (St. Joseph, Mo.) walked with the bases loaded to force in the tying run. The two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Wildcats their second walk-off win of the season and the 20th all-time in 10 seasons at their home venue.
Villanova came to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning trailing 1-0 after the Leopards scored the game's first run on a two-out single up the middle - the only Lafayette hit in the entire game - in the top half of the ninth. The pitching trio of freshman starter Tyler Radtke (Buffalo Grove, Ill.), sophomore reliever Matt Lengel (Devon, Pa.) and senior reliever Julian Diaz (Trenton, N.J.) masterfully teamed up to reach the brink of a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth inning of a game that to that point was still scoreless.
When the dust had settled their combined pitching accomplishment was phenomenal: the sixth one-hitter in 147 seasons of Wildcats baseball and the first in more than seven years. That they did it with zero margin for error in the entire contest and finished a game where the only hit allowed was on a slow, seeing-eye dribbler that slithered through the infield and up the middle made the effort only that much more impressive.
Given the way the game was playing out the one-run lead for Lafayette was as unexpected as it was short-lived. Junior left fielder Steve Schrenk (Brigantine, N.J.) led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a sharp single to right field, then junior pinch hitter Brandon Clark (Spring, Texas) and sophomore right fielder Connor Jones (Chandler, Ariz.) laid down consecutive bunt singles to load the bases with nobody out.
Nelson came to the plate with the bases loaded and looked at four consecutive balls to force home senior pinch runner Jordan Zech (Naples, Fla.) and tie the game at 1-1. On the very next pitch Leopards reliever Sean McGrath delivered Rambaud hit a fly ball to deep right-center field for an easy sacrifice fly that scored freshman pinch runner Dan Morris (New York, N.Y.) with the game-winning run.
Villanova finished the game with 11 hits - Jones went 3-for-4 and senior designated hitter Matt Fleishman (East Northport, N.Y.) was 2-for-3 to lead the way - but until the team had its back to the wall came up empty in the scoring column as the game passed from inning to inning.
Radtke made his fourth career start and pitched five hitless innings during which he walked two and struck out four, retiring the last seven batters he faced before reaching his predetermined pitch count. Lengel worked around a walk to pitch two innings with three strikeouts and Diaz (3-1, 3.14 ERA) finished it off to earn his third win of the season.
In the top of the ninth inning Lafayette leadoff hitter Andrew Santomauro drew a leadoff walk and moved into scoring position with one out on Thomas Dunleavy's sacrifice bunt. With still just one away a passed ball advanced Santomauro up to third base and forced the Wildcats to bring the infield in. Diaz struck out Kevin Casey to take some of the pressure off the defense with two outs but cleanup hitter Bobby Fargnoli hit the seventh pitch he saw from Diaz back up the middle to drive in Santomauro and give the Leopards a 1-0 lead.
The heroics in the bottom of the ninth inning were still to come but even before that the day was shaping up to be a special one thanks to tremendous pitching by Villanova which was backed up by incredible defense up the middle, in particular by senior shortstop Marlon Calbi (Montclair, N.J.) who came up with five assists on a number of difficult plays.
In the top of the fourth inning Radtke struck out Dunleavy to start the frame and then induced groundballs to the final five batters he faced. The first of those batters was Casey, who hit a slow roller towards short that Calbi charged, gloved and made a perfect throw on to get Casey at first base. Fargnoli was up next and he hit a ball up the middle that hit off the mound and took a high hop up the middle; Calbi fielded that one too and nabbed Fargnoli on a bang-bang play at first. In the top of the fifth inning James McCool hit a hard grounder into the hole on the left side of the infield. Calbi made a sliding stop in shallow outfield grass then got up and made the throw for a highlight-reel out at first.
Rambaud got into the defensive act too on the first play in the top of the sixth inning, when he charged and made a sliding shoestring catch of a listless sinking liner into shallow center field.
For eight innings Lafayette pitching matched the Wildcats zero for zero on the scoreboard. Freshman starter Alex Farina pitched four scoreless innings and scattered four hits with a walk and four strikeouts. Left-handed reliever Jack Rems pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings in relief before turning the ball over to Jeff Snell (1-2, 6.32 ERA), who in turn pitched 1 2/3 innings and exited with runners at first and second with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth.
Villanova returns to action for its second straight BIG EAST series on the road and will begin a three-game set at West Virginia on Thursday evening at 5 p.m.
POST-GAME NOTES: VILLANOVA 2, LAFAYETTE 1
- The pitching trio of freshman Tyler Radtke (Buffalo Grove, Ill.), sophomore Matt Lengel (Devon, Pa.) and senior Julian Diaz (Trenton, N.J.) combined to pitch the sixth one-hitter in 147 years of Villanova baseball in today's 2-1 win over Lafayette. It was the first one-hitter thrown by the Wildcats since a combined effort by Mike Loree, Ted Aust and Mike Grodecki in a 3-1 win over Rutgers on March 24, 2005.
ONE-HIT GAMES IN VILLANOVA HISTORY
April 8, 1968 vs. Princeton (10-0 win) - Harry Burke
May 5, 1968 vs. Drexel (10-1 win) - Bob Kropiewnicki
April 30, 1989 vs. Georgetown (11-0 win) - Mike Schick
April 16, 1992 vs. Georgetown (6-2 win) - Larry Kingsbury and David Herr
March 24, 2005 vs. Rutgers (3-1 win) - Mike Loree, Ted Aust and Mike Grodecki
April 3, 2012 vs. Lafayette (2-1 win) - Tyler Radtke, Matt Lengel and Julian Diaz
- Today's win was the 20th walk-off win in the history of the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth and the second this season. It was also the first time out of the 20 walk-off wins that the game ended on a sacrifice fly.
- Junior center fielder Paul Rambaud (Chicago, Ill.) delivered the first walk-off RBI of his career with his sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning. As a freshman in 2010 he scored the game-winning run in a 2-1 walk-off victory over Niagara.
- In four starts this season Radtke has faced 55 batters and allowed just eight hits while holding opposing batters to a .131 batting average over 18 2/3 innings. In those four starts has gone 1-1 with a 2.89 ERA.