April 5, 2013
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - A single up the middle in the bottom of the 11th inning dealt Villanova (8-20, 0-4 BIG EAST) a 4-3 loss to No. 20 Notre Dame (18-9, 3-4 BIG EAST) in the opener of a three-game series at Frank Eck Stadium on Friday night. The game was a gritty effort from start to finish by the Wildcats, who despite the outcome nevertheless showed what they are capable of against a nationally-ranked opponent playing on their home field.
Junior starting pitcher Pat Young (The Woodlands, Texas) made his fifth straight quality starts and senior shortstop Tyler Sciacca (Staten Island, N.Y.) reached base safely in all six of his plate appearances in the game. Villanova had eight hits in the game and reached base 11 more times thanks to nine walks and two hit batters by Fighting Irish pitching. Sciacca and junior right fielder Connor Jones (Chandler, Ariz.) each walked three times.
In the bottom of the 11th inning Charlie Markson led off with an infield single and then stole second to get into scoring position while Ricky Sanchez was at the plate. Sanchez lined a single straight back up the middle which was just out of the reach of the Wildcats middle infielders and Markson came home to score the winning run against junior reliever Chris Haggarty (Valley Cottage, N.Y.), who had a terrific outing in three-plus innings of relief.
The extra innings were made necessary when junior catcher John Cialone (Houston, Texas) hit a game-tying two-run double against Notre Dame closer Dan Slania (3-1, 0.37 ERA) with one out in the top of the eighth inning. Villanova trailed 3-1 at the start of the inning but sophomore designated hitter Brandon Carr (Danville, Calif.) led off with a single to left-center field and freshman third baseman Kevin Jewitt (West Chester, Pa.) drew a walk. The runners then moved up to second and third with still nobody out on a passed ball.
Slania entered the game with the runners at second and third and struck out freshman first baseman Max Beermann (Tampa, Fla.) for the first out of the inning. Cialone came up as a pinch hitter and he drilled a 1-0 fastball into deep right-center field for a two-run double. It was one of just two hits that the Wildcats had against Slania, who pitched went the rest of the way for the Fighting Irish in a four-inning stint.
Notre Dame scored single runs in three straight innings against Young, beginning with an RBI groundout by Ryan Bull in the bottom of the fourth inning which gave the Fighting Irish a 1-0 lead. In the bottom of the fifth inning Notre Dame loaded the bases with one out and Young induced a groundball for a fielder's choice force out at home plate but he then hit Eric Jagielo to force home a run. Bull led off the sixth inning with a triple and Blaise Lezynski followed with a double for the third Fighting Irish run before Young finished out the inning with no additional damage done.
The first run of the game for Villanova scored in the top of the sixth inning. Sciacca led off with a single and went first to third when a sacrifice bunt by senior left fielder Steve Schrenk (Brigantine, N.J.) was misplayed. The throwing error on the play gave the Wildcats runners at second and third with nobody out and Carr followed with a groundout that scored Sciacca from third.
In the bottom of the seventh inning Zak Kutsulis reached on an error with one out and Villanova turned to senior left-hander Matt Longfield (Miami, Fla.) with the lefty-hitting Jagielo due up. A passed ball allowed Kutsulis to move into scoring position but Longfield got Jagielo to foul out for the second out of the inning. Trey Mancini walked but Longfield got Ryan Bull to fly out to center field to end the inning.
Right after the Wildcats tied the game in the top of the eighth Haggarty (1-1, 2.92 ERA) entered in the bottom half of the inning and promptly retired the side in order. He issued a leadoff walk to pinch hitter Adam Norton in the bottom of the ninth inning and pinch runner Conor Biggio moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt. Haggarty was still in complete command though, and he struck out Kutsulis for the second out of the inning. Jagielo was intentionally walked and Haggarty retired Mancini on a line drive to center field that hung up long enough to be caught. Haggarty retired the side in order again in the 10th inning.
Young walked two and struck out three over 6 1/3 innings in his eighth start of the season. It was the seventh time in those eight outings that he allowed no more than three earned runs. Haggarty tied a career high with his three innings of work.
The second game of the series is scheduled for 2:05 on Saturday afternoon.
NOTES: The nine walks drawn by Villanova hitters is a season high ... The previous high was seven walks, on three previous occasions ... Cialone, Jewitt and Sciacca all hit their sixth doubles of the season and they continue to be tied for the team lead in doubles ... Longfield has stranded 18 of 23 inherited runners this season and has allowed just four hits to 53 batters faced ... The Wildcats are 1-2 in extra innings this season ... Neither team had a hit with two outs in the game ... Villanova was 0-for-8 with two outs and the Fighting Irish were 0-for-10 ... The Wildcats were 3-for-20 with runners in scoring position and Notre Dame was 3-for-16 ... The teams combined for 24 runners left on base ... The game-time temperature was 46 degrees and by the time the game ended the temperature had dropped to 36 with a wind chill in the mid-20's.