April 17, 2009
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - Villanova (17-17, 3-10 Big East) and USF (23-13, 11-2 Big East) traded rallies fueled as much by walks and hit batters as by timely hitting in the opener of a three-game series on Friday afternoon, with the Wildcats ultimately dropping a 6-4 decision to the Bulls in the opener of a three-game series at a sun-soaked Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth.
Villanova only had five hits in the game but had no trouble reaching base thanks to drawing seven walks and being hit by a pitch three times. Each team had just one 1-2-3 inning in the game and USF accumulated 11 hits while walking eight times and being hit by a pitch twice. The Bulls stranded 13 runners on base and went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
Five unanswered runs scored by USF as the game turned to the later innings proved to be the difference in the game. The Bulls scored three runs in the top of the sixth inning to take the lead for the first time and chase Wildcat starter Brian Streilein (Staten Island, N.Y.), and then plated two more runs with two outs in the seventh to establish a 6-2 lead.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, senior Joe Rosati (Havertown, Pa.) hit a sacrifice fly and classmate Wes Borden (State College, Pa.) was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force in a run but Villanova could draw no closer than the two-run margin and neither team produced any real rallies in the final two innings.
Redshirt freshman Matt Szczur (Erma, N.J.) had three hits and two runs scored for the Wildcats, who had just two other hits but still managed to have the top eight hitters in their lineup reach base safely at least once. Szczur led off the bottom of the first inning by beating out a groundball to shortstop for an infield hit and Rosati sacrificed him to second. With two outs, senior Matt McFolling (Chicago, Ill.) was safe at first on a muffed throw by the pitcher covering the bag and Szczur scored one play later on a failed pickoff attempt of McFolling.
The Bulls tied the game in the top of the third inning but left two runners on base in both the third and fourth innings, and Villanova went back ahead, 2-1, on a run-scoring double by freshman Kevin Wager (Chester, Va.) in the bottom of the fourth. Wager went 1-for-3 with a walk and Borden finished with a walk, was hit by a pitch twice, scored a run and had an RBI.
Streilein (3-5, 5.34 ERA) loaded the bases with one out in the top of the third inning with two walks and a hit batter and Stephen Hunt hit a sacrifice fly deep into the gap in left-center field to knot the score at 1-1. Streilein recovered to get a groundball out to end the inning and prevent further damage but eventually ran into trouble again in the top of the sixth.
Mike Consolmagno hit a two-run triple with one out in the sixth inning after consecutive singles to give USF its first lead of the game at 3-2. Jonathan Koscso walked with the bases loaded later in the frame to add another run before sophomore Mike Francisco (Malvern, Pa.) entered and got a fly ball out to end the inning.
In his last two outings, Francisco has inherited five runners on base and stranded them all, including four in scoring position. In today's game he ran into trouble of his own in the top of the seventh, however, walking the bases loaded with one down and eventually allowing a two-out, two-run single to Peter Brotons. Freshman Kyle Helisek (Cranberry Township, Pa.) came in to get the final out of the inning and pitched scoreless relief through the end of the game.
Brandon Smith had three hits and Brotons two for the Bulls and starting pitcher Randy Fontanez (4-3, 2.86) recorded the win with 6 2/3 innings of work. He allowed four hits and four runs (three earned) while walking six and striking out four. Joe Cole notched the final seven outs for his first save.
Streilein's final line was nine hits and four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings, with four walks and three strikeouts. Helisek allowed just a hit, a walk and a strikeout in his 2 1/3 innings and retired the final five USF batters.
The second game of the series is on Saturday at 12:15 p.m. It will be "Go Blue" day at the ballpark and all fans in attendance wearing their Villanova blue will have a chance to enter a raffle for special prizes. Other promotions are also in store during the game, in which junior southpaw Kevin Crimmel (Harrisburg, Pa.) will oppose Derrick Stults from USF.