April 25, 2012
AMBLER, Pa. - Sophomore right fielder Connor Jones (Chandler, Ariz.) drove in the game-winning run with two out in the top of the ninth inning and threw out the potential tying run at home plate to end the game in the bottom of the ninth as Villanova (23-19) gutted out a 4-3 victory over Temple (14-26) at Skip Wilson Field on Wednesday afternoon. Outfield assists by senior left fielder Matt Fleishman (East Northport, N.Y.) in the bottom of the eighth inning and Jones in the ninth cut down potential go-ahead and tying runs for the Owls in the first of two meetings this season between the local teams.
There were two outs and nobody on in a 3-3 game in the top of the ninth inning when junior designated hitter Steve Schrenk (Brigantine, N.J.) singled to left field for his second hit of the game. Freshman pinch runner Dan Morris (New York, N.Y.) advanced to second on a wild pitch and Jones hit a 2-2 offering from Brian Sustersic (2-4, 4.91 ERA) into left-center field to drive in Morris for a 4-3 lead.
Just as the top half of the ninth inning started with two outs and nobody on so too did the bottom half before Temple gave itself a chance to rally with back-to-back singles up the middle which put the potential tying run in scoring position and the potential winning run on at first base. Allen Stiles then singled through the right side on the first pitch he saw from junior relief pitcher Stephen Ostapeck (Sacramento, Calif.) but Jones fielded the ball and ended the game with a throw to the plate to get Elijah Yarborough trying to score from second.
The big plays at the plate and in the field by Jones in the ninth inning may never have happened if it wasn't for the throw to the plate which Fleishman started in the bottom of the eighth inning which prevented the Owls from taking what would have been their only lead of the game. With the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the eighth inning the Wildcats were clinging to a 3-1 lead when Steve Nikorak doubled to left field to drive in Henry Knabe and Stiles with runs that tied the score at 3-3.
Jordan Queja attempted to score from first on the double but Fleishman made a relay throw to senior shortstop Marlon Calbi (Montclair, N.J.) and Calbi threw out Queja at the plate. There was still Nikorak at second with one out to contend with but Ostapeck (3-2, 6.41 ERA) got a groundout to second and a fly ball to center to get out of the inning and get Villanova back to the dugout without having to play from behind in the final inning.
Throughout the game both teams were getting runners on base but struggling to get them home and the Wildcats wound up stranding 12 runners on base despite getting only five hits. Villanova also drew six walks and was hit by a pitch three other times to put constant pressure on the Owls pitching and defense. On the flip side Temple had outhit the Wildcats by an 11-5 margin but stranded 14 runners.
Villanova generated enough offense to score single runs in the first, third and sixth innings to methodically build a 3-0 lead. In the bottom of the sixth inning an RBI single by Stiles got the Owls on the board and cut the deficit to 3-1 but the Wildcats maintained their lead for two more innings until the double by Nikorak in the eighth.
Schrenk had the only multi-hit game for Villanova by going 2-for-5 and Jones collected the only two runs batted in of the game for the Wildcats, who also scored runs on a double steal and on a passed ball. Each of the latter two plays involved Calbi, who hit by a pitch and drew a walk while extending his streak of games reaching base safely to 18 in a row.
The game started with Calbi getting hit by a pitch, after which he stole second and moved up to third on a fly to right field by senior third baseman Kevin Wager (Holden, Mo.). Junior second baseman Tyler Sciacca (Staten Island, N.Y.) walked with one out and he and Calbi executed a successful double steal of second and home which gave Villanova a 1-0 lead.
In the third inning Fleishman and Schrenk reached on consecutive one-out singles and both moved up a base on a wild pitch which gave the Wildcats second and third with one out. Jones was at the plate and sacrificed to second to drive in Fleishman with the game's second run.
From start to finish Villanova executed its small ball style offense to near perfection. Junior center fielder Paul Rambaud (Chicago, Ill.) walked with one out in the top of the sixth inning, stole second and third while Calbi was batting and then scored when Calbi struck out but reached on a passed ball. Rambaud played the entire game without an official at-bat thanks to the walk, a hit by pitch and two sacrifice bunts.
On the mound sophomore right-hander Matt Lengel (Devon, Pa.) made his second start of the season and cruised into the sixth inning with little trouble. He deftly stayed out of trouble by forcing Temple into going 2-for-13 (.154) with runners on base against him while also picking off his sixth runner of the year when he nabbed Queja at first base.
Lengel allowed just four hits and one earned run in 5 2/3 innings while issuing five walks and striking out three. Following the RBI single by Stiles in the bottom of the sixth inning he walked Queja to load the bases but junior left-hander Matt Longfield (Miami, Fla.) came in and got Nikorak to ground out to second to strand the bases loaded.
After pitching 1 1/3 scoreless innings Longfield loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth inning on a double by Stiles sandwiched in between a pair of walks. Ostapeck entered the game with the bases loaded and nobody out and did well to get the Wildcats out of that inning with the Owls unable to take the lead.
The win was the third straight and fourth in the last five games for Villanova, which is now getting set to head on the road in BIG EAST play for the fourth time in the last five weeks. The team opens a three-game series at USF on Friday night in Tampa, with first pitch set for 7 p.m.
NOTES: The Wildcats and Temple play against next Tuesday at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth ... The teams were initially scheduled to play yesterday before wet field conditions forced a one-day postponement ... Villanova has 11 outfield assists this season ... Fleishman leads the team in that category with four assists, while Jones has two and threw a runner out at the plate for the second time this season.