April 28, 2012
TAMPA, Fla. - Timely hitting early in the game and clutch relief pitching over the final three innings added up to one of the most thrilling wins of the season for Villanova (25-19, 8-9 BIG EAST) as the Wildcats downed USF (28-16, 11-6 BIG EAST) by a final score of 7-6 at the USF Baseball Stadium on Saturday evening. The victory clinches a series win this weekend and is the fifth win in a row for Villanova, which led from start to finish in its second straight one-run victory over the Bulls.
The offense got going early on for the Wildcats and they wound up with 13 hits in the game. Villanova had hits from eight different positions in the lineup but the top of the batting order was particularly impressive. The top four hitters in the lineup combined to go 8-for-17 with four runs scored and five driven in to key the victory. Senior third baseman Kevin Wager (Holden, Mo.) had three hits and two runs batted in and senior designated hitter Matt Fleishman (East Northport, N.Y.) hit a two-run home run in the top of the sixth inning which proved to be the difference in the game.
On the mound sophomore Pat Young (The Woodlands, Texas) turned in another strong start before running into a jam in the sixth inning and three relievers behind him combined to hold up a one-run lead for the win. The defensive effort was also outstanding for the Wildcats, with no play bigger than the diving stop of a groundball up the middle that senior shortstop Marlon Calbi (Montclair, N.J.) made in the ninth inning; he got the second out of the inning on a force play at second and prevented the potential tying run from reaching scoring position by corralling the ball and keeping it in the infield.
Villanova put runs on the board in five of the first six innings and the home run by Fleishman off USF reliever Adrian Puig in the top of the sixth gave the Wildcats a 7-2 lead, their largest of the night. In the bottom half of the sixth, however, the Bulls plated four runs to get within 7-6 and had the potential tying and go-ahead runs on base when junior reliever Kevin MacLachlan (Matawan, N.J.) got cleanup hitter Todd Brazeal to ground out to third to end the inning. From that point on USF had only one more runner reach as far as second base in the last three innings.
Calbi had another strong offensive game, going 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored. Sophomore right fielder Connor Jones (Chandler, Ariz.) went 2-for-4 with a run scored and Villanova once again was able to execute its typical style of offense. The home run that Fleishman hit was the Wildcats only extra-base hit of the game.
Junior second baseman Tyler Sciacca (Staten Island, N.Y.) singled home Calbi with nobody out in the top of the first inning and Villanova had a 1-0 lead before making its first out of the game. In the top of the second inning run-scoring singles by junior center fielder Paul Rambaud (Chicago, Ill.) and Wager made the score 3-0 and gave Young (5-3, 4.31 ERA) a chance to settle into a bit of a groove.
Single runs for the Bulls in the second and third innings cut the Wildcats lead to 3-2 but Young struck out Jimmy Falla on seven pitches to end the bottom of the third inning and then issued just a two-out walk in a scoreless fourth inning.
Wager singled home another run in the top of the fourth inning and junior catcher Brandon Clark (Spring, Texas) added an RBI single in the fifth which gave Villanova a 5-2 lead halfway through the game.
At that point lightning was detected in the area and the game halted for 30 minutes before the Wildcats were finally able to take the field for the home half of the fifth inning. Following the delay Young allowed a leadoff single to Alex Mendez to open the bottom of the fifth, while Luis Llerena reached on an error which gave USF runners at the corners with nobody out.
Young was able to navigate through the inning without any runs scoring however, as James Ramsay flied out to left and Mendez was called out on an appeal play for leaving early from third base on what first appeared to be a sacrifice fly. The appeal left the Bulls with just a runner at first with two outs and Young struck out Brazeal on three pitches to end the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth inning USF had three runs in against Young with a runner at second and just one out when MacLachlan was called from the bullpen. He hit Mendez with a pitch and, one out later, allowed an RBI single to Ramsay which made the score 7-6 with runners at the corners and two outs. Brazeal made the last out of the inning for the second consecutive inning on a grounder to Wager and MacLachlan worked a 1-2-3 seventh inning.
Kyle Teaf singled to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning against MacLachlan and Chad Taylor sacrificed him into scoring position with one out. Villanova then turned to junior lefty Matt Longfield (Miami, Fla.) out of the bullpen and he came in to get the left-handed Mendez to fly out to left before inducing a harmless pop-up to Llerena to end the inning.
With only the final three outs remaining in the bottom of the ninth Longfield struck out Ramsay on a called third strike after falling behind him 3-0 but then walked Brazeal with one away. Ostapeck relieved Longfield and the first batter he faced, Falla, saw five pitches before hitting the ball back up the middle that Calbi made the great play on. Ostapeck struck out pinch hitter Buddy Putnam for the final out and notched his first career save.
Young was charged with 10 hits and six earned runs in 5 1/3 innings but struck out four and pitched much better than the final line indicated. The trio of MacLachlan, Longfield and Ostapeck combined to pitch 3 2/3 scoreless innings while allowing just two hits.
Bulls starting pitcher Joey Lovecchio (7-2, 4.27 ERA) lasted 4 1/3 innings against the Wildcats offense and was tagged for five earned runs on 10 hits, while walking two and not striking out any of the 24 batters he faced.
Villanova looks to try and sweep the three-game series on Sunday afternoon in a 1 p.m. finale.
NOTES: The last time the Wildcats won the first two games of a BIG EAST series on the road was on May 12, 2007 when the team swept a doubleheader at Georgetown ... Villanova is now 4-4 all-time against USF on their home field ... In two previous trips to Tampa the Wildcats had lost the first two games of a series and then salvaged a win in the final game ... The five-game winning streak matches a season high ... Villanova also won five straight from February 24-March 3 ... This season the Wildcats are 6-5 on the road in BIG EAST play after going 1-11 in those games last season ... In fact the six BIG EAST road wins this season match the combined total from the previous three seasons (2009-11) ... The last time Villanova had as many as six wins on the road in conference play came in 2004, when the team also had six such wins ... Calbi has reached base safely in 20 consecutive games, a streak which is two off the longest on the team this season ... Fleishman had a 22-game streak earlier in the year ... The Wildcats began the weekend in eighth place in the conference standings and they remain in that position, although Villanova now has a three-game lead on the teams directly behind it in the standings.