April 18, 2012
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - Sophomore starting pitcher Max Almonte (Long Beach, N.Y.) had a career-high nine strikeouts over six innings pitched and Villanova (20-18) compiled 13 hits in rallying for a 7-5 victory over La Salle (16-20) at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on Wednesday afternoon. Senior third baseman Kevin Wager (Holden, Mo.) and junior second baseman Tyler Sciacca (Staten Island, N.Y.) each had four hits to lead the Wildcats offensively.
Almonte allowed three runs in the top of the first inning but even before the inning was over began to settle into a steady rhythm that carried him through the middle innings. Villanova scored twice in the bottom of the second inning to cut the Explorers lead to one run, tied the game in the bottom of the sixth and then put the finishing touches on the comeback by batting around during a four-run seventh inning.
Junior catcher Brandon Clark (Spring, Texas) singled with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning and freshman pinch runner Dan Morris (New York, N.Y.) was at second with two outs when the game-deciding rally kicked into gear. Freshman pinch hitter Brandon Carr (Danville, Calif.) was hit by a pitch and senior shortstop Marlon Calbi (Montclair, N.J.) worked out a walk before Wager dropped a two-run single into left-center field on a ball that just eluded the grasp of La Salle center fielder George Smith, who nearly made a diving highlight reel catch.
Instead of the inning being over two runs scored to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game at 5-3. Sciacca rolled a bunt single up the third base line to score Calbi and junior designated hitter Steve Schrenk (Brigantine, N.J.) was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to cap an inning that saw 10 men come to the plate.
Signs of life from the Explorers offense in the top of the eighth inning led to two runs scoring and trimmed the newly minted Villanova lead down to 7-5 but the Wildcats hung on for a well-deserved victory which also avenged an extra-innings loss to La Salle earlier this season.
The late deciding runs were made possibly by Almonte, who yielded two earned runs on seven hits in his six innings of work. With three runs already in during the top of the first inning and with runners at the corners and two outs he got Mitchell Garcia to look at a called third strike. That out not only ended the inning but also began a stretch in which Almonte retired 15 of the final 18 batters that he faced.
Almonte followed a leadoff single by Smith in the top of the second inning by retiring the next nine batters he faced, retiring the side in order in both the third and fourth innings during that stretch. In the fifth inning Bennie led off with a walk but was thrown out at second trying to steal on a picture-perfect throw from Clark.
Wager and Sciacca both went 4-for-5 and scored a run in the game. Clark and senior left fielder Matt Fleishman (East Northport, N.Y.) were each on base three times thanks to pairing two walks with a base hit. Fleishman singled through the left side in the bottom of the sixth inning to drive in Sciacca with the game-tying (3-3) run while also recording the 100th run batted in of his Villanova career.
Freshman JB Kole (Basking Ridge, N.J.) came out of the bullpen to earn his first collegiate victory and senior Julian Diaz (Trenton, N.J.) got the final six outs for his third save of the season. Kole (1-0, 8.71 ERA) pitched a 1-2-3 top of the seventh inning before allowing a hit and a walk to start the eighth. Both of those runners eventually scored before Diaz slammed the door shut on the Explorers hitters.
The fifth of seven La Salle pitchers was Derek Prucnal (0-1, 9.82 ERA), who allowed one hit and one run in two-thirds of an inning during the rally in the seventh inning. Starting pitcher Mike McLeod allowed two earned runs on six hits in a 1 2/3 innings and only one reliever was used to get more than four outs the rest of the way.
Marc Schoch and Justin Korenblatt each had two hits and an RBI for the Explorers, who had won the previous three meetings with the Wildcats.
Villanova returns to action this weekend when it visits Seton Hall for a three-game series on the road. The schedule for the series has been changed and will now begin with a 4 p.m. game on Friday afternoon. The teams will then play a doubleheader on Saturday to wrap up the series.