April 17, 2014
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - Junior starting pitcher Josh Harris (Streamwood, Ill.) pitched eight strong innings and the offense backed him up with a 13-hit attack as Villanova (11-22, 3-4 BIG EAST) opened a three-game series with a 6-3 win over Creighton (18-12-1, 3-1 BIG EAST) at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on Thursday afternoon. Five of the nine batters in the lineup had multi-hit games and the Wildcats scored at least one run in five of their eight innings at the plate.
It was the pitching of Harris (3-5, 5.96 ERA) that set the tone for the game. He was in complete command in his longest outing of the season and complemented his fastball by going to his secondary pitches time and again to prevent the Bluejays batters from making good contact. Creighton scored all three of its runs in the top of the third inning and Harris was dominant after that. After the Bluejays put two runners on with one out in the top of the fourth inning Harris retired 13 of the final 16 batters he faced, including retiring the side in order in the top of the eighth. He wound up allowing just six hits and a walk while striking out four.
Sophomore third baseman Kevin Jewitt (West Chester, Pa.) had two hits and two runs scored but it was a plate appearance not resulting in a hit which snapped a 3-3 tie and gave Villanova the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth inning. With the bases loaded and one out Jewitt grounded a 1-2 pitch to second base for what looked like it might be an inning-ending double play. Creighton got the force out at second for the first half of the twin killing but Jewitt tore down the line and beat the throw to first base by a step, allowing sophomore left fielder Adam Goss (Bellaire, Texas) to score the go-ahead run.
Goss led off the home half of the sixth inning and was hit by a pitch for the 15th time this season on the very first offering by Bluejays reliever Will Bamesberger (2-1, 3.97 ERA), who then walked senior center fielder Connor Jones (Chandler, Ariz.) on four pitches. Bamesberger was removed after facing just two batters and freshman second baseman Todd Czinege (Overland Park, Kan.) flied out to deep left field against Nick Highberger, advancing the base runners to second and third, respectively. Sophomore first baseman Max Beermann (Tampa, Fla.) was intentionally walked to load the bases for Jewitt.
With two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the eighth inning Beermann walked and Jewitt followed by reaching first base on a wild pitch in the dirt on a swinging third strike. Freshman designated hitter Brian Trabulsi (Malverne, N.Y.) followed with a two-run double to make the score 6-3 and put the game out of reach going to the ninth inning.
Senior reliever Matt Meurer (Katy, Texas) pitched a scoreless ninth for his fifth save of the season.
Harris faced the minimum number of batters through the first two innings and the Wildcats led 2-0 after plating single runs in each of their first two trips to the plate. Creighton designated hitter Landon Lucansky doubled to lead off the third inning, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Ryan Fitzgerald and scored on Kevin Lamb's RBI groundout. With two outs and nobody on the Bluejays strung together three straight hits, the last of which was a two-run single to center field by Jake Peter which gave Creighton a 3-2 lead.
Villanova tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the third when Jewitt singled with one out and eventually scored on a bunt single up the first base line by sophomore shortstop Eric Lowe (Arlington Heights, Ill.), who finished the day 3-for-4 with both a run scored and an RBI.
With the lead back in hand Harris got some help from his defense in the top of the fourth inning. Brett Murray singled with one out and was safe at second when a fielder's choice groundball off the bat of Lucansky was misplayed for an error. The error gave the Bluejays runners at first and second with one out and Fitzgerald lined a single to center field. Murray rounded third and tried to score on the play but was thrown out at the plate. Jones' throw from center field was up the third base line but sophomore catcher Emmanuel Morris (Willowbrook, Ill.) had time to make the catch and then tag Murray as he ran by. Harris ended the inning by inducing a groundball to short for the third out.
Jones tripled with one out in the bottom of the first inning and scored the first run of the game moments later on Czinege's groundout to short. In the bottom of the second inning Lowe singled through the left side with one out, Morris followed with a single down the left field line and Goss lined a single to right field to score the game's second run and push the lead to 2-0.
Jewitt, Jones, Morris and Trabulsi had two hits apiece for the Wildcats, who started the game by getting a run on three hits in each of the first three innings. Creighton starter Taylor Elman allowed eight hits to the 15 batters he faced and departed with one out and runners at the corners in the bottom of the third inning.
Game two of the series is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon.
NOTES: Harris began the game by striking out leadoff hitter Brad McKewon for his 100th career strikeout ... He pitched at least seven innings for the sixth time in 11 career BIG EAST starts and worked into at least the eighth inning for the fourth time ... Jones leads the conference in triples (6) and Goss is first in the league in hit by pitch (15) ... Goss has tied a season and career high by reaching base safely in 11 straight games ... Jones registered the team's 15th outfield assist of the season with his throw to the plate in the fourth inning ... Villanova only had seven outfield assists all of last year ... Meurer has finished 15 of the 17 games he has appeared in this season ... The Wildcats are 3-1 at home in conference play this season, their best home start versus league opponents since 2008.