April 21, 2012
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. - The momentum generated by an extra-inning victory in the first game of a doubleheader carried over to the nightcap and Villanova (22-19, 6-9 BIG EAST) broke open a close game with six runs in the top of the eighth inning in a 12-5 win over Seton Hall (21-18, 8-7 BIG EAST) at Owen T. Carroll Field on Saturday afternoon. Earlier in the day the Wildcats won the opener of the twin-bill, 7-4, in 12 innings. The victory in the nightcap allowed Villanova to sweep the doubleheader and win the weekend series two games to one, the first series win in BIG EAST play for the team this season.
Junior catcher John Cialone (Houston, Texas) played a big part in the first game with a pinch hit double and then went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a run scored and a run batted in during the nightcap. Senior first baseman Adam Nelson (St. Joseph, Mo.) came off the bench in both games to play key roles and finished the second game 2-for-2 with four RBI and a run scored.
Although the Wildcats trailed 1-0 after the Pirates got on the board in the bottom of the first inning they rallied with runs in four consecutive innings from the second through the fifth. Junior second baseman Tyler Sciacca (Staten Island, N.Y.) hit an RBI double in the top of the fourth inning to put Villanova ahead 4-1 and freshman first baseman Brandon Carr (Danville, Calif.) doubled home a run in the top of the fifth for a 5-3 lead after Seton Hall had put two runs on the board in the home half of the fourth.
The contest was well on its way to being a seesaw affair when the Pirates scored in the bottom of the fifth inning to pull back to within one run at 5-4. Dale Anderson singled home a run with two outs in the inning and Alex Falconi followed by reaching on an error to advance the potential tying run into scoring position.
And then the lights went out on the Seton Hall offense and the timing coincided with the entry of sophomore reliever Matt Meurer (Katy, Texas) into the game. Meurer (2-1, 2.49 ERA) induced an inning-ending groundball off the bat of Michael Betz to escape the fifth and wound up being all that the Wildcats needed pitching wise the rest of the way. He pitched the final 4 1/3 innings and allowed just two hits to 16 batters faced, while yielding one earned run with a walk and two strikeouts.
The score stayed 5-4 with the outcome hanging in the balance until the top of the eighth inning when Villanova broke out for six runs which put the game out of reach. With the bases loaded and one out in the eighth junior catcher Brandon Clark (Spring, Texas) walked to force in the first run of the inning. Nelson then pinch hit for Carr against Rick Mangione to avoid a lefty-lefty matchup and his at-bat was the turning point in the game.
Nelson quickly fell behind Mangione 0-and-2 but eventually fouled off four pitches with two strikes to stay alive, then hit the eighth offering he saw for a bases clearing three-run double to left field which extended the Wildcats lead to 9-4. Later in the inning senior shortstop Marlon Calbi (Montclair, N.J.) hit a sacrifice fly and senior third baseman Kevin Wager (Holden, Mo.) singled home a run to cap the rally.
Wager and junior outfielder Paul Rambaud (Chicago, Ill.) joined Cialone and Nelson with multi-hit games and Calbi finished the game 1-for-3 with a walk, hit by pitch, run scored and two runs batted in. Senior designated hitter Matt Fleishman (East Northport, N.Y.) and junior left fielder Steve Schrenk (Brigantine, N.J.) each had a hit, two walks and two runs scored and Villanova totaled 27 base runners in the game behind 14 hits, 10 walks and three hit batters.
On the flip side the Pirates had 10 hits of their own but three Wildcats pitchers issued just two walks while doing a good job of staying out of significant trouble. Seton Hall went down in order just twice in the game - in the bottom of the seventh and ninth innings - but the trio of junior starting pitcher Kevin MacLachlan (Matawan, N.J.), junior Stephen Ostapeck (Sacramento, Calif.) and Meurer were in control of the game from start to finish.
MacLachlan made his first start of the season and allowed seven hits and three earned runs over 3 1/3 innings. After the early run by the Pirates in the bottom of the first inning MacLachlan never gave up the lead that his offense handed him in the top of the second.
In the bottom of the fourth inning a one-out single by Betz trimmed the Villanova lead to 4-3 and Ostapeck came on for MacLachlan with runners at first and second. Following a sacrifice bunt that advanced the runners to second and third Ostapeck hit Mike Genovese with a pitch but struck out Will Walsh with the bases loaded to end the inning.
Ostapeck allowed one hit and one earned run in 1 1/3 innings of work in his first relief outing since the opening weekend of the season. Most impressively in his outing Ostapeck slammed the door on Seton Hall with runners on base, a trend that continued once Meurer entered the game. After the Pirates went 4-for-7 with runners on base against MacLachlan they combined to go just 1-for-9 in those situations against Ostapeck (1-for-5) and Meurer (0-for-4).
For the only time in the three games of the series the Wildcats chased the Seton Hall starting pitcher early on. Brian Gilbert (2-4, 4.14 ERA) allowed three earned runs on four hits and four walks in 2 2/3 innings and his day was done after a two-out RBI double by Cialone in the top of the third inning. Villanova kept hitting and scored at least one run against each of the five relievers that the Pirates used before all was said and done.
A series win for the Wildcats not only was critical to the team's position in the conference standings but was a just reward for the team's play of late. Villanova has shown improvement in each of its five BIG EAST series this season but it took until Saturday's doubleheader sweep for the results in the win column to match the Wildcats quality of play on the field.
The two wins for Villanova, coupled with Georgetown getting swept at home by Notre Dame, move the Wildcats into eighth place in the BIG EAST standings. Villanova is currently one game ahead of the Hoyas (5-10 in BIG EAST play) and two games behind Rutgers and Seton Hall, who are tied for sixth place with conference records of 8-7.
NOTES: The last time the Wildcats won the last two games of a conference series on the road after losing the series opener came at Rutgers on May 10-11, 2008 ... Villanova won that series and propelled itself into an appearance in the BIG EAST Championship one week later ... Calbi extended his streak of games reaching base safely to 17 consecutive games ... The Wildcats had six doubles in the contest, the third time this season that the team has had at least six two-base hits in a contest ... Villanova leads the BIG EAST with 85 doubles on the season.