April 7, 2011
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - For the second time in the last three years Villanova (13-15) is headed for the championship game of the Liberty Bell Classic after the Wildcats rallied past La Salle (15-13) two different times and held on for a 9-7 victory at Hank DeVincent Field on Wednesday afternoon. Villanova will meet Delaware in the championship game next Tuesday, April 12 at 7 p.m.
Facing deficits of two runs after both the fourth and sixth innings the Wildcats scored in each of the last five innings of Wednesday's game to surge to the victory. Villanova scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning to take the lead for good and held off the Explorers over the final three innings. Prior to the last five innings of the game the Wildcats had gone scoreless for 13 innings against La Salle for parts of two games this season.
Senior third baseman David Koczirka (Thornton, Pa.) had a season-high four hits, including a single that scored the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh inning and a solo home run in the top of the ninth. He went 4-for-6 with three RBI and finished just a triple short of hitting for the cycle. Junior first baseman Kevin Wager (Fairfax, Va.) was 3-for-4 with a run scored and three others had multi-hit games.
Once the lead was in hand for good Villanova turned to the always steady relief pitching of senior closer Mike Francisco (Newtown Square, Pa.), who registered the final five outs of the game for his eighth save. Francisco entered the game with a runner at second base and one out in the eighth inning and the Wildcats nursing an 8-7 lead. A passed ball moved the runner up to third but Francisco struck out the next two batters to end the inning and then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to close out the contest.
The biggest and most significant of the many swings of momentum in the game came in the bottom of the sixth and top of the seventh innings. Villanova surrendered four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to fall behind 6-4 but then came right back in the seventh with three runs of their own.
Junior left fielder Andrew Geenen (Portola Valley, Calif.) led off the seventh inning with a single and the Wildcats followed with three more singles in a row to set a carousel in motion. Wager beat out an infield hit and sophomore outfielder Paul Rambaud (Chicago, Ill.) singled to load the bases with still nobody out.
The next batter up was sophomore pinch hitter Steve Schrenk (Brigantine, N.J.), who also reached on an infield hit which scored Geenen and drew Villanova to within one run at 6-5. La Salle nearly escaped the inning by getting a groundball double play in the infield but Wager scored the tying run and Rambaud advanced to third on the play. Koczirka followed with a line drive single to center field for a 7-6 lead that the Wildcats would never relinquish.
What ended up as a seesaw affair began as a scoreless game until the bottom of the fourth inning, when the Explorers pushed across two runs to take a 2-0 lead. It was during its next at-bat, though, that Villanova finally broke through with runs on the board against La Salle.
Freshman catcher Dan Jaffe (Las Vegas, Nev.) singled to start the top of the fifth inning but a two-run rally to tie the game at 2-2 didn't really get going until there were two outs in the inning. Junior shortstop Marlon Calbi (Montclair, N.J.) doubled home Jaffe and junior left fielder Matt Fleishman (East Northport, N.Y.) singled to tie the game.
In the sixth inning with the score tied 2-2, Jaffe walked with one out, freshman second baseman Michael Erb (Camarillo, Calif.) hit into a fielder's choice and both Koczirka and Calbi followed with run-scoring hits to stake the Wildcats to their first lead of the game at 4-2.
Freshman starting pitcher Pat Young (The Woodlands, Texas) allowed two earned runs on six hits in four innings of work, while walking none and striking out one. Fellow freshman Max Almonte (Long Beach, N.Y.) earned his second win of the season out of the bullpen. Almonte (2-0, 5.60 ERA) registered the final two outs of the sixth inning and was the pitcher of record when Villanova rallied in the top of the seventh.
Shane Petrellis (2-2, 2.66 ERA) was the fifth of six pitchers for the Explorers and came out on the short end of the decision. Petrellis entered the game to start the seventh inning and allowed four runs on seven hits in 1 1/3 innings pitched.
Villanova returns to BIG EAST play with a three-game series at Pitt this weekend.