April 5, 2014
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - Sophomore first baseman Max Beermann (Tampa, Fla.) delivered a go-ahead single with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning and senior closer Matt Meurer (Katy, Texas) induced a fly ball to center field with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth inning to end the game as Villanova (9-18, 1-1 BIG EAST) evened its series against St. John's (17-12, 1-1 BIG EAST) with a 5-4 victory at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on Saturday afternoon.
Beermann extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a pair of singles and sophomore shortstop Eric Lowe (Arlington Heights, Ill.) also had two singles for the Wildcats, who had five hits in the game while drawing four walks and also making the most out of fielding miscues by the Red Storm during rallies in the sixth and seventh innings. On the pitching side Villanova received an outstanding start from junior Max Almonte (Long Beach, N.Y.) and a solid bullpen effort to earn the win.
The game had all of the twists, turns and drama of a hard-fought classic contest between two conference rivals. A pitching change on one side meant a corresponding pinch hitter on the other side. Players from both teams came through in big spots and the game itself came down to the last at-bat in the ultimate baseball showdown: ninth inning, bases loaded, two outs, one-run game.
It was that exact situation that Meurer was called in from the bullpen for, as St. John's had left-handed hitter Michael Donadio due up. St. John's countered with right-handed pinch hitter Bret Dennis, who hit a 1-1 offering from Meurer for a routine fly ball to center field to end the inning. The victory was a redemptive for the Wildcats, who had lost three straight games this week in which they had the lead in the eighth inning or later.
Villanova trailed from the top of the first inning on but finally got on the board with two runs in the bottom of the sixth and then completed the comeback with a three-run seventh inning. Freshman second baseman Todd Czinege (Overland Park, Kan.) came to bat with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the seventh, watched a run score on a passed ball and then tied the score at 4-4 with an RBI groundout to second. Beermann then batted with a runner at third and two down, with some question as to whether or not the Red Storm would pitch to him with first base open.
Beermann got ahead in the count 2-0 and 3-1 but took a called second strike and then dropped a sinking liner into center field to score senior center fielder Connor Jones (Chandler, Ariz.) with the go-ahead and eventual winning run. Jones had walked earlier in the inning and he also caught the final out of the contest on the fly ball hit to center field in the ninth.
St. John's scored two runs in the top of the first inning, with the first run scoring on Matt Harris' RBI single. Harris was 3-for-4 on the day and had another run-scoring single in the top of the fifth inning which extended the Red Storm lead to 3-0. He later came to the plate with two outs and a runner at second in the ninth inning and was intentionally walked rather than being pitched to with the potential tying run in scoring position.
Through the first five innings of the contest the Wildcats were being one-hit by St. John's starter Ryan McCormick, who eventually gave up four hits while striking out eight in 6 1/3 innings. Sophomore left fielder Adam Goss (Bellaire, Texas) reached on an error to start the top of the sixth inning and that opening seemed like it might give some life to the offense.
Goss stole second but McCormick struck out Jones and Czinege in consecutive at bats and had the potential to get out of the inning when Beermann hit a slow roller back towards the mound. The ball got past McCormick and there was no chance to throw Beermann out at first by the time it got to the middle infielders. Goss moved up to third on the play and sophomore third baseman Kevin Jewitt (West Chester, Pa.) walked to load the bases. Senior catcher John Cialone (Houston, Texas) then hit a ball towards the hole on the left side and the Red Storm booted it, allowing both Goss and Beermann to score the first two Villanova runs of the game.
In the bottom of the seventh inning Lowe led off with a bunt single up the first base line and sophomore pinch hitter Emmanuel Morris (Willowbrook, Ill.) lined a single through the left side. Goss sacrificed the runners to second and third with one out and left-handed reliever Matt Clancy (1-2, 4.97 ERA) relieved McCormick to face the lefty-hitting Jones, who eventually coaxed a six-pitch walk to load the bases. That was followed by the passed ball which allowed Lowe to score and the RBI groundout by Czinege.
Almonte scattered six hits and three earned runs in six innings of work, while walking three and striking out three. He retired the side in order in the second, fourth and sixth innings and at two different points in the game set down six straight batters. Almonte also retired the final four hitters he faced in a very strong outing.
Senior reliever Chris Haggarty (Valley Cottage, N.Y.) pitched 2 2/3 innings of one-hit relief, allowing just an unearned run in the top of the seventh inning and striking out two to go along with two walks, one of which was intentional. Haggarty (2-0, 4.86 ERA) entered the game to start the top of the seventh inning and allowed a leadoff double to right field by Zach Lauricella. After Lauricella was sacrificed to third with one out, Haggarty struck out Harris before a throwing error allowed Lauricella to score an unearned run.
The teams are back at it on Sunday afternoon for the rubber game of the series beginning at 1:15 p.m. Freshman left-hander Hunter Schryver (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) starts for Villanova and will be opposed by St. John's right-hander Joey Graziano.
NOTES: Beermann is riding a 12-game hitting streak and a 17-game streak of reaching base safely ... Meurer leads the Wildcats with 14 appearances this season and has finished 13 of the games he has appeared in ... Villanova snapped a 14-game home losing streak against conference opponents.