April 11, 2012
EASTON, Pa. - Junior left fielder Paul Rambaud (Chicago, Ill.) had a career-high four hits, reached base safely in all five of his plate appearances and made a pair of diving catches in the late innings that helped Villanova (18-16) rally for a 5-3 win in 10 innings over Lafayette (10-22-1) at Kamine Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. The game was the second straight thriller in the last eight days between the teams and the Wildcats once again earned a late win with an impressive all-around team effort.
Rambaud singled with one out and one on in the top of the 10th inning for his fourth hit of the day and wound up stealing both second base and home in the inning, when Villanova scored two runs to escape from a 3-3 deadlock and push across the decisive runs. Senior third baseman Kevin Wager (Holden, Mo.) hit a sacrifice fly to center field with the bases loaded and one away to score senior center fielder Jordan Zech (Naples, Fla.) with the go-ahead run. With runners at the corners and one away senior shortstop Marlon Calbi (Montclair, N.J.) and Rambaud executed a successful double steal in which Rambaud crossed the plate for the final run of the game.
The pitching and defense were outstanding for the Wildcats, who fell behind 3-1 in the bottom of the first inning and then did not allow another run for the rest of the game. Villanova scored single runs in the first, third and fifth innings and eventually drew even with the Leopards at 3-3 midway through the contest. Junior second baseman Tyler Sciacca (Staten Island, N.Y.) singled home a run in the top of the fifth inning to tie the score and then both teams came up empty on the scoreboard until the Wildcats broke through again in the first extra inning.
In addition to having four singles in the game Rambaud also drew a walk and finished with two stolen bases and two runs scored. Sophomore right fielder Connor Jones (Chandler, Ariz.) had a two-hit game for Villanova, which had 20 of its 49 batters reach base safely in the contest. Those base runners came via 12 hits, five walks and three hit batters and all nine starters in the Wildcats lineup reached base safely at least once.
On the pitching side sophomore Max Almonte (Long Beach, N.Y.) recovered from allowing three runs to score after there were two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the first inning. He went 4 2/3 innings and was backed up by four relievers who combined to pitch 5 1/3 scoreless innings while allowing just four hits and striking out six.
Sophomore southpaw Matt Meurer (Katy, Texas) pitched the eighth and ninth innings to earn his first collegiate victory and senior Julian Diaz (Trenton, N.J.) worked around a pair of base runners in the bottom of the 10th inning for his second save of the season.
The road that Villanova traveled down before reaching the victory was filled with potential pitfalls, none more dangerous than when Leopards left fielder Bobby Fargnoli came to the plate in the bottom of the 10th inning - he was 4-for-4 with two doubles, a triple and two RBI at the time - with runners at first and second and two outs and hit a line drive into left field which Rambaud dove for and caught to end the game and protect the victory.
Rambaud and Zech both came up with big plays in big spots in the bottom of the eighth inning to preserve the 3-3 tie. Brad Hopek led off the bottom of the eighth inning and greeted Meurer (1-1, 2.75 ERA) by hitting a fly ball to left-center field which Rambaud made a diving catch on for the first out. After the next batter struck out looking Fargnoli tripled to center field but was thrown out at the plate to end the inning on a play that started with Zech and finished with a relay throw from Calbi to junior catcher Brandon Clark (Spring, Texas) to get the out at home plate.
With the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth inning junior lefty Matt Longfield (Miami, Fla.) came in with a runner at third and two outs and fanned Hopek on four pitches to end the inning. He also pitched a scoreless bottom of the sixth inning and freshman right-hander Tyler Radtke (Buffalo Grove, Ill.) delivered a scoreless seventh to send the game into the late innings.
Almonte pitched better than his final line indicated after running into trouble with two outs in the first. He retired the first two Lafayette batters of the game on groundball outs but then issued a walk and hit a batter before Andrew Ruck singled home a run and Fargnoli followed with a two-run double down the left field line. Almonte recovered to get his third out of the inning on the ground and wound up allowing just those three earned runs on five hits in 4 2/3 innings of work. He walked one and struck out two better than two-thirds of his pitches for strikes.
The start of the game was almost as exciting as the way it ended. Calbi led off the top of the first inning with a triple to left-center field and scored on the play on a throwing error by the shortstop which earned the Wildcats an immediate 1-0 lead.
In the top of the third inning Rambaud drew a leadoff walk and eventually scored with two outs when a potential inning-ending fly to left was dropped for an error. Wager doubled down the left field line to start the fifth inning and scored one out later on Sciacca's base hit.
Sean McGrath (1-1, 5.01 ERA) was charged with both runs that scored for Villanova in the top of the 10th inning and took the loss. Leopards starting pitcher Toby Schwartz allowed three runs over five innings of work but just one of those runs was earned and he struck out four while preventing the Wildcats from regaining the lead after the first inning. Three relievers combined to pitch the next four innings and keep the game tied before Villanova could finally win it.
The first meeting of the season between these teams was an unexpected one at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth last Tuesday, as both squads had been eliminated from the Liberty Bell Classic in the first round the week before that. In last week's contest three Wildcats pitchers combined to take a no-hitter up until there were two outs in the ninth inning of a scoreless game. The only hit of the entire contest for Lafayette put Villanova into a 1-0 hole with in the ninth inning but the Wildcats came back with two runs in the bottom of the ninth for a walk-off victory. Diaz was the winning pitcher in that contest and saved today's equally exciting sequel.
Villanova plays a weekend series at home for the first time in three weeks when it hosts Georgetown for a three-game set, beginning with a Friday afternoon tilt. First pitch in the series opener is set for 3:15 p.m.