April 14, 2012
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - Sophomore right fielder Connor Jones (Chandler, Ariz.) drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the bottom of the eighth inning and Villanova (19-17, 4-7 BIG EAST) held on for a 10-9 victory over Georgetown (17-18, 4-7 BIG EAST) at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on Saturday afternoon. A large and boisterous crowd was on hand to see the Wildcats score three times in their final at bat of a wild affair which ultimately evened this weekend's three-game series at one apiece.
The game was an entertaining one from start to finish but both teams saved their best efforts for an action-packed final two innings. Villanova scored what looked like an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh inning and led 7-4 with a win just six outs away.
That all changed with two outs in the top of the eighth inning when a close call on a force out at third base went the Hoyas way and eventually led to four runs scoring as Georgetown stormed back to take an 8-7 lead, and more importantly all of the momentum in the game.
The momentum lasted as long as the break in between innings and the Wildcats rallied for the second time in the game thanks to clutch hitting by Jones and rickety Hoyas defense in the inning. Senior shortstop Marlon Calbi (Montclair, N.J.) reached on an error to start the bottom of the eighth and senior third baseman Kevin Wager (Holden, Mo.) was safe when a sacrifice bunt was misplayed.
With two on and one out in the inning senior designated hitter Matt Fleishman (East Northport, N.Y.) reached on a fielder's choice and Villanova wound up with runners at second and third when the ball was thrown away in an attempt to turn a double play. Senior pinch hitter Andrew Geenen (Portola Valley, Calif.) was granted first base on catcher's interference to load the bases and set up Jones' at-bat.
Jones took a strike and then came up with his second hit of the game to drive in junior second baseman Tyler Sciacca (Staten Island, N.Y.) and Fleishman, while Geenen came around to score a third run when the ball got away from the left fielder.
Even with the Wildcats holding a two-run lead in the top of the ninth inning there were still big outs to get. Georgetown cleanup hitter Mike Garza reached on a two-base error with one out in the ninth and Corbin Blakey singled up the middle to drive him in and cut the Villanova lead to just one run at 10-9. One out later a single by Danny Poplawski allowed the Hoyas to have both the potential tying and go-ahead runs on base but pinch hitter Nick Geary grounded out to end the game.
Sophomore left-hander Matt Meurer (Katy, Texas) was the last of five Wildcats pitchers in the game and earned his second win in as many outings. He came on with runners at the corners in the eighth inning after Georgetown had already plated four runs. He had Trevor Matern picked off of first base but alertly turned to see Justin Leeson trying to score and threw him out at the plate to put the tumultuous inning to an end.
Meurer (2-1, 2.57 ERA) wound up pitching 1 1/3 innings to get the win and salvage a game that also featured yet another strong start by sophomore Pat Young (The Woodlands, Texas), who went the first 6 1/3 innings. Young allowed just four hits to 27 batters faced while walking two and striking out three. Of the four runs charged to his account just two were earned and he lowered his ERA in four BIG EAST starts to 3.29 in 27 1/3 innings.
The frenzied pace to the game was evident from the start and the Hoyas dealt the first blow with two runs in the top of the first inning. Rand Ravnaas lined a hard single up the middle to drive in a run and eventually he scored as well on an RBI groundout by Steve Anderson. The second run of the inning was unearned due to a throwing error by Villanova but, starting with the groundout by Anderson, Young was officially on cruise control.
He retired 14 of the next 15 batters that he faced and that spanned through the end of the fifth inning. Meanwhile, the Wildcats scored their first run on an RBI single by Wager in the bottom of the third inning and put a five-run burst on the board in the fifth to go ahead for the first time at 6-2.
Wager and Sciacca hit back-to-back singles with one out in the fifth inning to first tie the game at 2-2 and then give Villanova a 3-2 lead. The bases were loaded with still only one out when junior left fielder Steve Schrenk (Brigantine, N.J.) walked to force home a run, Jones singled to right field to drive in a fourth run and senior catcher Adam Nelson (St. Joseph, Mo.) walked to force in the final tally of an inning which saw the Wildcats send 11 men to the plate.
A streak of nine straight batters retired by Young ended when Matern reached on an error to start the sixth inning. Christian Venditti and Garza followed with consecutive doubles to pull Georgetown to within 6-4 before Young escaped the jam with three consecutive fly ball outs.
Freshman first baseman Brandon Carr (Danville, Calif.) singled with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to make the score 7-4, a run that looked even bigger when the Hoyas began their two-out rally in the eighth inning.
Garza lined out to start the eighth inning but Georgetown had runners at first and second with one away when senior Julian Diaz (Trenton, N.J.) entered the game. He got Poplawski on a soft pop-up to first base and then induced a groundball to third off the bat of Bello for what looked like it would be the third out of the inning. Wager fielded the ball cleanly deep at third base and raced to the bag for a force play but the runner coming from second base - Blakey - was ruled to have gotten to the bag just before Wager did.
It was a potential game-changing call at third base and the Hoyas responded to it with an RBI single by Andy Lentz, followed by a bases-loaded walk to Leeson and a two-run single by Matern before Meurer came in and registered the final out.
Sciacca led all players in the game with three hits while Jones and Wager each had two hits and combined to drive in five runs. Schrenk went 2-for-3 with an RBI and Calbi was 1-for-3 out of the leadoff spot while extending his streak of games reaching base safely to a season-high 12 straight contests.
Georgetown starting pitcher Neal Dennison allowed seven hits and six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings pitched. He issued five walks and struck out one and departed after walking Schrenk with the bases loaded during the midst of the fifth inning Villanova rally. Charles Steinman (2-3, 2.67 ERA) pitched the bottom of the eighth inning and all three runs charged to him were unearned as a result of five errors committed in the inning.
Sunday afternoon the series will be decided in the rubber game of the series, with junior Stephen Ostapeck (Sacramento, Calif.) scheduled to pitch for the Wildcats against Jack Vinder Linden. First pitch is at 12:15 p.m.
NOTES: Villanova has had four of its last five BIG EAST games decided by one run ... This was the first of those four games in which the Wildcats came out on top ... Dating back to last season this is the fifth time in the last six conference series for Villanova that the series will not be decided until the third game ... Sophomore reliever Matt Lengel (Devon, Pa.) relieved Young with one out in the sixth inning and retired three of the four batters he faced in a scoreless inning of work which lowered his ERA on the season to 3.33 ... In three appearances against BIG EAST opponents he has pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings while allowing just one hit ... Opponents are batting .100 against him in league play ... Young is holding opposing batters to a .229 average against him in his four conference starts ... He is 4-3 with a 3.78 ERA overall for the season and leads the team with 52 1/3 innings pitched.