Big Second Inning Propels Wildcats Past St. John's, 6-5, Clinches Series Win
April 6, 2014
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - After scoring six runs in the bottom of the second inning Villanova (10-18, 2-1 BIG EAST) rode its pitching the rest of the way and hung on to defeat St. John's (17-13, 1-2 BIG EAST) by a final score of 6-5 at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on Sunday afternoon. With the victory the Wildcats clinched their first series win against the Red Storm since 1999 and came away from the opening weekend of conference play with a huge momentum boost.
Freshman pitcher Hunter Schryver (Mechanicsburg, Pa.) was solid in his first career conference start and pitched into the seventh inning to earn his first win of the year. Junior reliever Matt Lengel (Devon, Pa.) and senior closer Matt Meurer (Katy, Texas) combined for the final seven outs of the game, with Meurer working a scoreless ninth that included consecutive strikeouts to end the game. It was the second straight day that Meurer saved a one-run game and he now has four saves for the year.
In the bottom of the second inning Villanova made St. John's pay for a pair of fly balls that the Red Storm failed to catch. Freshman second baseman Todd Czinege (Overland Park, Kan.) and sophomore third baseman Kevin Jewitt (West Chester, Pa.) each drove in two runs in the inning and the Wildcats turned a 2-0 deficit into a 6-2 advantage. St. John's did its best to chip away at the lead with single runs in the third, sixth and eighth innings but Schryver and company did an excellent job of avoiding big innings.
With a one-run lead in hand and the top of the Red Storm order due up in the ninth Meurer allowed a single to leadoff hitter Alex Caruso, whose slow bouncer up the middle nearly turned into an out when Czinege ranged far to his right to pick up just in front of the outfield grass. His throw to first was a strong one that Caruso just beat out for his second hit of the game. Ty Blankmeyer sacrificed Caruso into scoring position but Meurer struck out Robert Wayman and cleanup hitter Matt Harris on called third strikes to secure the win and send the home team into a celebratory frenzy.
The win felt like it was a long-time coming for Villanova, which has had its share of excruciatingly close games both this season and in the past against one of its oldest conference rivals. To date 16 of the Wildcats 28 games this season have been tied or within one or two runs entering the seventh inning. Villanova won a series against St. John's for the first time since sweeping a two-game series in a doubleheader on March 28, 1999. The two wins in that series also came by one-run margins.
Jewitt was hit by a pitch leading off the home half of the second inning and senior catcher John Cialone (Houston, Texas) laid down a sacrifice bunt to move him into scoring position. After sophomore designated hitter Emmanuel Morris (Willowbrook, Ill.) was also hit by a pitch, Red Storm starter Joey Graziano (1-3, 5.87 ERA) struck out sophomore shortstop Eric Lowe (Arlington Heights, Ill.) and was on the verge of escaping the inning with his 2-0 lead still intact.
Redshirt freshman right fielder Mike Mecca (Ridgefield, N.J.) hit a pop-up in foul territory near home plate but the ball was dropped by the St. John's catcher as he drifted back into fair territory. The base runners for the Wildcats alertly were running from the beginning of the play and Jewitt scored all the way from second when the ball was dropped, while Morris went from first to third and Mecca landed at second. Sophomore left fielder Adam Goss (Bellaire, Texas) and senior center fielder Connor Jones (Chandler, Ariz,) were issued back-to-back walks, the latter of which forced Morris home from third and tied the game at 2-2.
There still had not been a hit in the inning but that changed when Czinege lined a 1-2 pitch into center field for a two-run single which gave Villanova the lead and also chased Graziano from the game. Reliever Chris Kalica - who went on to toss 5 1/3 scoreless innings of relief with six strikeouts - walked sophomore first baseman Max Beermann (Tampa, Fla.) to reload the bases and Jewitt followed with a fly ball to right field which was lost in the sun and fell in for a two-run double to extend the lead to 6-2.
In the first two innings of the game two batters from each team were hit by a pitch as the starting pitchers each battled their nerves while making their first BIG EAST starts. Schryver (1-3, 3.94 ERA) hit Caruso and Blankmeyer consecutively to start the game in the top of the first inning. After the runners moved to second and third with one away on Robert Wayman's sacrifice bunt, Harris hit a ground ball to third and Jewitt looked both runners back before throwing to first for the second out of the inning. Jarred Mederos followed with a two-run single to right-center field but Schryver rebounded and got Michael Donadio on a roller to Beermann to end the inning.
Blankmeyer walked to start the top of the third inning but Wayman grounded into a 6-4-3 double play on which Lowe made a slick pick up on and then quickly got rid of the ball to start the twin killing. The next batter up was Wayman and his popup between short and third was lost in the same high sky that the Red Storm fielders had trouble with. The ball was dropped for an error and Wayman reached base ahead of Mederos hitting an RBI double to left field. The inning ended when Mederos was thrown out at third trying to extend his hit into a triple. The relay from left field to third base went 7-6-5 and ended the inning.
In the top of the sixth inning Mederos walked with two outs and nobody on and Donadio doubled to right-center field to pull the Red Storm to within two runs at 6-4. Schryver struck out Zach Lauricella to end the inning and then got the first two batters out in the top of the seventh. Caruso walked on four pitches to extend the seventh inning and Blankmeyer singled to right-center to Schryver's day. Lengel came in and got Wayman to fly to center and strand both runners. Schryver wound up allowing five hits and four runs (three earned) in 6 2/3 innings, while walking four and striking out four.
Lengel also pitched the eighth inning and allowed a one-out single to Mederos, who moved to second with two away when Lauricella drew a walk. Robbie Knightes followed with a single to right field to get St. John's within a run before Lengel got Sanchez on a pop-up to second.
Next up for the Wildcats is a non-conference game at Lafayette this coming Tuesday afternoon. First pitch is at 3:30 p.m.
NOTES: St. John's leads the all-time series with Villanova by a 49-39 margin ... One out of every four games in the series (22 of 88) have been decided by one run ... Beermann singled to center field with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning to extend his hitting streak to 13 games ... He has reached base safely in 18 straight contests ... The last Wildcats batters with a 13-game or better hitting streak were Tyler Sciacca (15 games) and Matt Fleishman (13 games) during the 2012 season ... Schryver has allowed just 20 hits in 29 2/3 innings this season and opponents are batting .200 against him ... Meurer pitched in all three games of the series and now has 60 appearances in his Villanova career ... He needs one more outing to move into the top 10 in school history in career appearances ... Lengel has stranded eight of 10 inherited runners this season and leads Wildcats relievers with three holds.