April 29, 2012
TAMPA, Fla. - A line drive into the gap in right-center field with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the eighth inning that turned into an out on a diving catch may have been all that stood between Villanova (25-20, 8-10 BIG EAST) and a three-game sweep of USF (29-16, 12-6 BIG EAST) but the Wildcats were defeated by a final score of 3-1 at the USF Baseball Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The weekend was nevertheless a big one for Villanova, which took the first two games of the series.
Neither team had much in the way of offense on a hot and humid Sunday afternoon and the Wildcats were stymied at the plate through seven innings by Bulls starting pitcher Derrick Stultz (7-1, 3.43 ERA) before putting together their first significant rally in the top of the eighth inning.
Despite not having a hit in the eighth inning Villanova loaded the bases with one out and eventually sent seven men to the plate before being retired. Senior pinch hitter Adam Nelson (St. Joseph, Mo.) was hit by a pitch leading off and both freshman first baseman Brandon Carr (Danville, Calif.) and senior shortstop Marlon Calbi (Montclair, N.J.) drew walks against Stultz, who was lifted after the walk to Calbi loaded the bases.
USF reliever Austin Adams hit senior third baseman Kevin Wager (Holden, Mo.) with a pitch to force in Nelson from third base but then recovered with a strikeout for the second out of the inning. Fleishman hit a 1-1 pitch into the gap in right-center field but Bulls right fielder James Ramsay made a diving catch just before the ball hit the ground, ending the inning with USF still ahead 3-1 instead of the Wildcats plating at least one run and continuing the rally.
Sophomore right fielder Connor Jones (Chandler, Ariz.) singled with one out in the top of the ninth before the Bulls registered the final two outs to avoid being swept on their home field. Villanova was held to four hits by three USF pitchers after putting 13 hits on the board in last night's 7-6 victory.
The game was scoreless until there were two out in the bottom of the fourth inning as sophomore starting pitcher Max Almonte (Long Beach, N.Y.) looked good in his first conference start of the season. Almonte (1-3, 6.13 ERA) pitched into the seventh inning and allowed just five hits and two walks while being charged with three earned runs. The last run on his account scored after he left the game and his 6 1/3 innings tied a career high.
Ramsay singled with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning and was at second with two away when Jimmy Falla hit a single back up the middle that scored Ramsay, who beat a terrific throw to the plate by junior center fielder Paul Rambaud (Chicago, Ill.) by the narrowest of margins. One batter later the Bulls put a safety squeeze on with runners at the corners and Kyle Teaf bunted up the third base line for a single which scored Falla and gave USF a 2-0 lead.
In the bottom of the seventh inning Teaf walked and stole second base with one out before scoring on a single by Kyle Copack with two outs.
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Wildcats but even with the loss the team's recent hot streak gives Villanova a chance to finish the weekend with as much as a two-game lead on its eighth place position in the BIG EAST standings. The team is also just one game out of seventh place.
With the series against the Bulls complete the Wildcats have now finished a stretch in which they played four of the last five conference series on the road. Villanova is now going to have eight consecutive games at home, beginning with a non-conference game against Temple at 3:15 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon.
NOTES: In the last two weekends the Wildcats have won consecutive series on the road at Seton Hall and USF ... The last time Villanova won back-to-back road series in BIG EAST play was in 2007 when the team took two out of three games at both Cincinnati (Apr. 27-29) and Georgetown (May 12-13), with a home series win against West Virginia (May 5-6) in between ... The last time the Wildcats went on the road in BIG EAST play back-to-back weekends and won both series came on April 6 and April 13-14, 1996 when Villanova swept a two-game series at Providence and won two of three games in a series at Seton Hall ... To this point in the season the Wildcats are 6-6 in conference road games ... The walk that Calbi drew in the eighth inning extended his streak of reaching base safely to 21 consecutive games ... Almonte has registered back-to-back quality starts in his last two outings, including against La Salle on April 18 as well as today's start ... In those two outings Almonte has logged 12 1/3 innings pitched, struck out 11 and allowed 12 hits and five earned runs (.267 opponent batting average, 3.65 ERA) ... Villanova's bullpen combined to pitch 8 2/3 scoreless innings in the series, allowing five hits and walking just one while striking out six ... USF batted .167 (5-for-30) against the Wildcats relievers.