April 12, 2013
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - Four unearned runs in the last two innings spoiled what had been a scoreless contest and Villanova (9-23, 1-6 BIG EAST) found itself in a hole just slightly too large to overcome in a 4-3 loss to Connecticut (20-13, 6-4 BIG EAST) at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on Friday afternoon. The game was scoreless through the first seven innings before each team stumbled to the finish line.
Junior right-handed pitcher Pat Young (The Woodlands, Texas) pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings and registered his sixth consecutive quality start in a duel against Huskies right-hander Carson Cross (6-1, 1.40 ERA), who pitched seven innings and likewise did not allow a run. Young scattered six singles, struck out six and issued just one walk to the final batter he faced. He has now recorded a 1.80 ERA while averaging 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings in his last six starts.
In the top of the eighth inning Billy Ferriter batted for Connecticut with one out and nobody on and chopped a ball up the first base line which was mishandled for an infield hit. Two batters later the Huskies had runners at second and third with one away following a walk and a double steal. With the infield playing in Vinny Siena hit a hard groundball in the infield and the throw home was wide of the plate, allowing two runs to score. Connecticut took further advantage of the throwing error when Eric Yavarone singled home the third run of the inning with two outs.
On a rainy afternoon daylight was fading fast as the pace of the game stalled in the late innings and when the Wildcats came up in the bottom of the ninth inning trailing 4-0 it looked like the Huskies would be three quick outs away from the victory. That was hardly the case. Villanova batted around in its final turn at the plate despite not having a hit in the inning. Only two balls were put in play in fact, and the outcome of the game was not decided until Huskies right fielder Jon Testani made a shoestring catch on a deep fly ball that nearly escaped his grasp in near-darkness.
With one out and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth inning freshman pinch hitter Adam Goss (Bellaire, Texas) drew the first of what turned into three consecutive walks by Connecticut reliever Ryan Moore, who retired just one of the five batters he faced in the ninth inning. Junior right fielder Connor Jones (Chandler, Ariz.) and freshman pinch hitter Nicolas Coutre (Libertyville, Ill.) each walked against Moore to load the bases, but a strikeout by Moore had the Wildcats down to their final out.
Senior second baseman Tyler Sciacca (Staten Island, N.Y.) walked to force in a run and also chase Moore from the game. Jordan Tabakman became the third Huskies pitcher of the inning and he promptly walked sophomore designated hitter Brandon Carr (Danville, Calif.) before plunking freshman first baseman Max Beermann (Tampa, Fla.) to force home two more runs and make it a one-run game.
Villanova turned to sophomore B.J. Bochicchio (Moosic, Pa.) to pinch hit and he hit a 2-2 pitch to deep right field which Testani circled under before reaching out and finally getting his glove on the ball. Tabakman earned his third save of the season as Connecticut hung on for the victory.
Sciacca hit two doubles in the game and was the Wildcats only batter with more than one hit. Despite being held to just six hits in the game Villanova had 14 total base runners thanks to drawing seven walks and having one hit batter. Carr finished 1-for-2 with a hard single up the middle and also walked three times. He is batting .308 over his last seven games.
Early in the game Young was in complete command as he found one way after another to keep the Huskies off the scoreboard. He retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced and struck out the side in the third inning, then made big pitches and relied on his defense during the middle innings.
Connecticut had runners at the corners with one out in the top of the fourth inning but Young struck out Bobby Melley and then got Yavarone to ground into an inning-ending fielder's choice. Yavarone hit a ball up the middle but Sciacca made a diving stop behind the second base bag and flipped the ball to freshman shortstop Eric Lowe (Arlington Heights, Ill.) for the out.
In the top of the fifth inning the Huskies had runners at the corners with one out again and Young hit Tom Verdi to load the bases before inducing Ferriter into a 4-6-3 double play. In the sixth inning LJ Mazzilli led off with a single and stole second base but Young got three straight pop-ups to end the inning.
Young faced Jack Sundberg with two outs and nobody on in the top of the seventh inning and walked him on six pitches in an at-bat where every pitch seemed to close to call on the edges of the plate. The big plays by the Wildcats continued even when Young left the game however, as junior reliever Chris Haggarty (Valley Cottage, N.Y.) came in and picked off Sundberg to end the inning.
Haggarty (1-2, 2.70 ERA) wound up on the short end of the decision after being charged with the three unearned runs in the top of the eighth inning. He allowed two hits and walked two in his 17th outing of the season, while Connecticut added another unearned run against junior reliever Matt Meurer (Katy, Texas) in the top of the ninth.
The three-game series continues on Saturday afternoon at 1:15 p.m.
NOTES: In his last six starts Young has logged 40.0 innings pitched and allowed just 28 hits, eight earned runs and 11 walks while striking out 50 ... He has a 1.80 ERA and a 0.98 walks-plus-hits ratio during that stretch ... With today's start he lowered his ERA for the season to an even 3.00 ... Over the past five games Villanova batters have drawn 32 walks and have a .381 on-base percentage ... Jones has a team-high nine walks in that span.