April 7, 2009
BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The middle of the batting order came through in a big way for Villanova (15-15), which advanced to the championship game of the Liberty Bell Classic for the first time since 2005 with an 8-1 win over Lehigh (8-24-1) on Tuesday afternoon at the Goodman Campus. The Wildcats will meet Delaware next Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park in search of its fourth tournament title.
Senior Joe Cotter (Bryn Mawr, Pa.) homered and drove in four runs and freshman Kyle Helisek (Cranberry Township, Pa.) pitched a six-hitter for his fourth win of the year in six starts. Helisek (4-1, 4.65 ERA) retired the first 10 batters he faced and wound up with no walks and five strikeouts in his first career complete game.
Cotter hit a three-run home run in the first inning and added a two-out single in the top of the sixth for Villanova, which plated six of its eight runs with two outs. There were two out and none in the top of the first when sophomore Dain Hall (Barrington, Ill.) walked and senior Matt McFolling (Chicago, Ill.) was hit by a pitch ahead of Cotter's blast into a gusty wind that was blowing out to right field.
The 4-7 hitters in the Wildcats lineup all had two hits and combined for four runs scored and seven driven in. McFolling had a pair of doubles, including one that drove in a run in the fourth inning, while redshirt freshman David Koczirka (Thornton, Pa.) drove in runs in the third and sixth innings. Koczirka finished 2-for-2 with two RBI, two walks and a successfully executed safety squeeze, while senior Wes Borden (State College, Pa.) went 2-for-3 with a walk.
Helisek needed nothing more than Cotter's first inning long ball, as he allowed just three runners past second base while beating Lehigh for the second time in two weeks. Helisek had pitched 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball in a 5-1 win over the Mountain Hawks exactly two weeks earlier at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth. In the two starts combined he surrendered just 12 hits and two earned runs in 15 2/3 innings against Lehigh, while striking out 13.
Jim McConlogue and Ryan Gajdos opened the bottom of the second inning with consecutive doubles off of Helisek to produce the only run of the game for the Mountain Hawks. The run made the score 5-1 in favor of the Wildcats but the rally went no further as Helisek came back with a strikeout and two groundouts to escape the inning. Villanova then answered with three runs in the top of the sixth to essentially put the game out of reach.
Hall walked twice, singled, stole a base and scored three times for the Wildcats, who had four stolen bases in as many tries for the afternoon. Senior Joe Rosati (Havertown, Pa.) also had two hits for Villanova, including a double down the right field line and a drag bunt up the first base line.
The Wildcats handed the short end of the decision to Mountain Hawk starter Dan Ciccone, who gave up four earned runs in three innings, walking three striking out one and allowing four hits. Kevin Mihalik had two hits for Lehigh.
Villanova hosts Seton Hall this week in a three-game series in Plymouth Meeting. The teams play a doubleheader starting at 12:15 p.m. on Thursday and play a single game on Saturday at 12:15 p.m. All games are nine innings.
NOTES: The Wildcats knocked out the defending Liberty Bell Classic champions with today's win ... These two teams also met in the 2004 and 2005 championship games, with the Mountain Hawks winning in 2004 and Villanova claiming the title in 2005 ... The Wildcats first two championships game in 1998 and 1999.