April 7, 2012
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - In a game that featured staggering batting totals Villanova (17-15, 3-5 BIG EAST) broke several school and conference records with a 26-11 victory over West Virginia (13-19, 2-6 BIG EAST) at Hawley Field on Friday evening. More important than the record-setting performance is that the Wildcats evened the three-game series with the Mountaineers at one game apiece, with the rubber game set for Saturday afternoon.
The most significant piece of the damage that Villanova inflicted on the West Virginia pitching staff came during a barrage of 17 runs during the top of the fifth inning, by far the biggest scoring inning in the history of BIG EAST play. The single-inning run total is also a school record and the 26 runs in the game are the most that the Wildcats have ever scored versus a conference opponent, as well as the most that the Mountaineers have allowed to a league foe.
In the marathon inning that told the tale of the entire game Villanova sent 22 batters to the plate. On two separate occasions during the inning the Wildcats had nine consecutive batters reach base without making an out. Given the number of runs that were scored and the number of batters that came to the plate perhaps the most incredible offensive total put up in the frame was the fairly pedestrian total of six hits that Villanova needed in order to score the equivalent of two touchdowns and a field goal. The rest of the onslaught came as a result of seven walks, four batters hit by a pitch and three errors.
Senior first baseman Adam Nelson (St. Joseph, Mo.) led off the fifth inning with a single and wound up going 2-for-2 with a walk, three runs scored and two RBI before the side was finally retired. Senior designated hitter Matt Fleishman (East Northport, N.Y.) contributed a pair of doubles and drove in four runs in the frame, while doubles by sophomore right fielder Connor Jones (Chandler, Ariz.) and senior center fielder Jordan Zech (Naples, Fla.) accounted for three more runs. Three of the seven walks issued to the Wildcats forced home runs as well.
Long before the frenetic fifth inning began both teams had already pushed runs across the plate at a fever pitch. Villanova scored twice in the top of the first inning, a hopeful attempt at erasing the memory of giving up a 5-0 lead in a 7-6 loss to West Virginia in the series opener on Thursday evening. This time around the two-run lead was no hurdle for the Mountaineers, who countered with a four-spot in the bottom of the first inning to take a 4-2 lead.
It was the only time in the entire game that West Virginia would be on top in the scoring column. When the pendulum swung back towards the Wildcats in the top of the second five more runs crossed the board and Villanova led by a 7-4 margin. A lone run in the bottom of the second inning closed the gap to 7-5 and then both offenses went dormant until the Wildcats erupted again in the top of the fifth.
By the time the game ended Villanova was halfway through its unfathomable eighth time through the batting order. Senior third baseman Kevin Wager (Holden, Mo.) and junior second baseman Tyler Sciacca (Staten Island, N.Y.) both played the entire game and each had eight plate appearances. Wager singled twice and was hit by a pitch two other times; he scored four runs. Sciacca was one of two Wildcats starters not to have a hit in the game. He also became the first Villanova batter in more than four years to draw four walks in a single game; he scored four runs. Nelson tied a career-high with four hits and senior shortstop Marlon Calbi (Montclair, N.J.) singled, walked and was hit by a pitch twice; Nelson and Calbi both scored four times.
Fleishman, Jones and sophomore catcher John Cialone (Houston, Texas) did their share of the heavy lifting as well. Fleishman delivered a single and two doubles to drive in five runs while scoring three times. Jones went 4-for-6 with two runs scored and four driven in. Cialone also had four RBI while going 1-for-2 with a double, three walks and three runs scored.
Not all of the performances that led Villanova to the big win came on the offensive side. Junior pitcher Kevin MacLachlan (Matawan, N.J.) took the mound with one out in the bottom of the first inning and when he entered the game the Wildcats trailed 4-2 and the Mountaineers had two runners on base. MacLachlan (1-1, 4.50 ERA) walked the first batter he faced to load the bases but then slammed the door with a strikeout and a groundball fielder's choice to end the inning. He pitched through the end of the sixth inning and by the time he left the game Villanova was ahead by 19 runs.
Junior starting pitcher Stephen Ostapeck (Sacramento, Calif.) yielded back-to-back home runs to Ryan McBroom and Matt Frazer which accounted for all four runs (three earned) that West Virginia scored in the bottom of the first inning. After the solo shot Frazer hit Ostapeck registered his only out on a groundball to short by Pen Nakazato, but after two more singles turned the game over to MacLachlan for the long haul.
The lines for both starting pitchers looked like mere footnotes by the time the game was over, although the Mountaineers trailed for good after Zach Bargeron (0-1, 4.26 ERA) allowed five hits and five runs (three earned) in 1 1/3 innings of work. The first of five relievers used by West Virginia was Dan Dierdorff, who was tagged for six hits and six earned runs in three-plus innings. He was one of four pitchers that the Mountaineers used to get through the fifth inning.
In the first two games of the series the Wildcats and West Virginia have combined to score 50 runs but despite the records that were set on Friday evening the only truly meaningful statistic on the board so far is one. Both teams have notched one win so far on the weekend and the rubber game on Saturday afternoon will ultimately decide the series.
First pitch on Saturday is at 1 p.m. and Villanova will have sophomore right-hander Pat Young (The Woodlands, Texas) on the hill. Young (4-3, 3.60 ERA) has a 2.40 ERA spanning 15.0 innings pitched in his first two conference starts of the season. He will be opposed by Mountaineers southpaw Marshall Thompson, who is 3-4 with a 4.68 ERA in seven starts this season.