Jones Home Run in 12th Inning Powers Wildcats Past Seton Hall, 7-4, in Doubleheader Opener
April 21, 2012
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. - Sophomore right fielder Connor Jones (Chandler, Ariz.) hit his first career home run - a three-run blast with one out in the 12th inning - and Villanova (21-19, 5-9 BIG EAST) surged past Seton Hall (21-17, 8-6 BIG EAST) by a final score of 7-4 in the first game of a doubleheader at Owen T. Carroll Field on Saturday afternoon. Later in the day the Wildcats completed a sweep of the doubleheader with a 12-5 win in the nightcap and Villanova wound up taking two of three games in the weekend series for its first series win in conference play this season.
Before the heroics in the 12th inning the Wildcats were down to their last six outs trailing 4-1 when they struck for three runs in the top of the eighth inning. Jones had an RBI single in the midst of that rally too, and the score remained tied at 4-4 until the final rally in the top of the 12th inning.
Each of the three-run innings for Villanova started the same way, with junior second baseman Tyler Sciacca (Staten Island, N.Y.) and senior designated hitter Matt Fleishman (East Northport, N.Y.) each reaching base to set the table for the middle of the batting order.
Sciacca led off the top of the 12th inning with a bunt single and Fleishman followed with a single to right field. After senior center fielder Jordan Zech (Naples, Fla.) laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third with one away Jones hit the very next offering from Benny Mejia (3-1, 3.50 ERA) over the fence in right-center field for a 7-4 lead.
An adequate offensive day for the Wildcats was backed up by equally solid pitching from sophomore Pat Young (The Woodlands, Texas) and senior Jerry Battipaglia (Katonah, N.Y.), the only two pitchers that Villanova needed in the extra-inning affair. Young turned in yet another quality start versus a BIG EAST opponent and Battipaglia (2-0, 1.06 ERA) tossed five scoreless innings in relief to earn the win.
The path to the dramatic win started in the top of the eighth inning when Sciacca drew a leadoff walk and Fleishman was hit by a pitch. With those runners at first and second with nobody out both teams started making moves and the depth of the Wildcats bench came through in a big way. Left-handed reliever Rick Mangione entered the game for the Pirates to set up a lefty-lefty matchup against junior left fielder Steve Schrenk (Brigantine, N.J.) but Villanova countered with sophomore John Cialone (Houston, Texas) as a pinch hitter and he doubled down the left field line to drive in Sciacca with the first run of the inning.
Zech pinch ran for Cialone and then Jones and junior catcher Brandon Clark (Spring, Texas) delivered consecutive RBI singles, with the hit through the left side by Clark knotting the score at 4-4. By the time all was said and done the Wildcats bench had combined to go 2-for-3 with a run scored, an RBI and two sacrifice bunts en route to the win.
Villanova was a tough out offensively from top to bottom in the lineup and 11 different players wound up with at least one hit in the contest. Jones and Clark had two hits apiece and were the only Wildcats with multi-hit games despite the team amassing 13 hits total. Sciacca, Fleishman and Jones all scored two runs.
Both teams generated plenty of offense and the game featured a combined 24 hits as well as a total of 21 runners left on base. Young and Battipaglia gave Villanova a decided advantage in shutting down the other team when it counted most, however. Seton Hall went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position while Young was in the game and was just 2-for-12 overall against Young with runners on base. Battipaglia was even better; in his five innings pitched the Pirates had just four at bats with runners in scoring position (0-for-4) and went 0-for-9 with runners on base.
Young allowed just six hits and three earned runs over seven innings of work and had five strikeouts while walking just one. Battipaglia scattered five hits over five innings with a walk and two strikeouts.
Earlier in the game the Wildcats briefly had a 1-0 lead when Jones scored an unearned run in the top of the second inning as part of a double steal attempt. The inning started with Schrenk singling up the middle and Jones drawing a walk and Villanova attempted a double steal with Jones at third and Clark at first with one away. Clark was thrown out at second - the Wildcats were 1-for-4 attempting to steal in the game - but Jones came in to score the first run of the game.
In the bottom of the second Giuseppe Papaccio led off with a double, advanced to third and eventually scored on two consecutive groundouts that advanced him around the bases.
Seton Hall took the lead for the first time in the bottom of the fifth inning when Mike Genovese walked with the bases loaded to force home a run and make the score 2-1. In the sixth inning Kyle Grimm hit a sacrifice fly to left and Ryan Sullivan stole second and third before scoring on a wild pitch. His run gave the Pirates a 4-1 lead and Villanova then pitched shutout ball for the final 6 1/3 innings of the game.
Mejia entered the game for Seton Hall during the middle of the eighth inning rally by the Wildcats and allowed the game-tying single by Clark. He eventually pitched 4 1/3 innings and allowed three earned runs on four hits while walking none and striking out four, departing the game after the Jones home run.
Pirates starting pitcher Ryan Harvey went six innings and did not allow an unearned run while giving up five hits with four walks and seven strikeouts.
NOTES: Villanova is 3-3 in extra innings this season ... All six games have taken place away from home and today's game was the first of the six to go longer than 10 innings ... The last time the Wildcats played a game that went past 10 innings was ironically at home against Seton Hall last season ... Villanova defeated the Pirates, 4-3 in 14 innings, on March 25 in the 2011 conference opener for both teams ... That game was actually suspended due to darkness and completed the next day ... In five BIG EAST starts this season Young is 1-1 with a 3.41 ERA while averaging just under seven innings per start ... He has logged 34 1/3 innings against conference foes with 30 hits allowed ... In the five starts he is holding the opposition to a .227 batting average against him, including just .206 with runners on base and .182 with two outs ... Calbi extended his streak of reaching base safely to 16 consecutive games.