April 30, 2011
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - Junior left-hander Kyle Helisek (Cranberry Township, Pa.) pitched a five-hitter for his first win of the season and Villanova (17-24, 4-13 Big East) won its fourth straight game, 7-2 over West Virginia (24-18, 10-7 Big East) at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on Saturday afternoon. The victory for the Wildcats secures their first series win in conference play this season.
Helisek (1-6, 4.72 ERA) had allowed a walk and a run-scoring double by the time the game was three batters old but then settled in and did not allow an earned run for the rest of the game. He pitched his the second complete game of his career and made sure he would go the distance by generating ground balls for double plays in both the eighth and ninth innings, the latter of which ended the game.
One of the top hitting teams in the BIG EAST entering the weekend, the Mountaineers have been held at bay in each of the first two games of the series. Helisek consistently mixed all of his pitches well and kept the West Virginia hitters off balance from start to finish. He walked three and struck out two - both on called third strikes - while letting his defense do the rest of the work for him.
At the plate Villanova continued to roll along with its West Coast style of offense in top form. Just one of the 11 hits racked up by the Wildcats went for extra bases but the team mixed in three stolen bases and three sacrifice bunts while drawing four walks and one hit by pitch. Complementing all of that was timely hitting when opportunities arose; Villanova went 7-for-17 (.412) with runners in scoring position while Helisek held the Mountaineers to going 1-for-7 (.143) in the same situations.
Junior catcher Adam Nelson (St. Joseph, Mo.) had two hits and drove in two runs, both on two-out RBI singles through holes in the infield. Senior first baseman David Koczirka (Thornton, Pa.) and senior designated hitter Dain Hall (Barrington, Ill.) each had two hits and a run scored and junior shortstop Marlon Calbi (Montclair, N.J.) finished the day 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI.
For the fourth straight game during the win streak the Wildcats got on board by scoring in the first inning, this time tying the score at 1-1 after West Virginia had grabbed an early lead. Koczirka hit the very first pitch thrown by Mountaineers starting pitcher Marshall Thompson (4-2, 4.83 ERA) for a double to left field, Calbi bunted for a single to move him to third and sophomore left fielder Steve Schrenk (Brigantine, N.J.) moved up both runners with an RBI groundout.
Villanova wound up putting runs on the board in each of the first three innings to build a 4-1 lead and give Helisek more than enough cushion to get through the rest of the game. In the bottom of the second inning there were two outs and nobody on before junior third baseman Kevin Wager (Fairfax, Va.) drew a four-pitch walk. He advanced to second on a balk while Nelson was at the plate and Nelson eventually worked the count full before slotting a single through the left side for a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the third inning Calbi worked a leadoff walk in a seven-pitch plate appearance and Schrenk sacrificed him into scoring position. Calbi moved up to third on a fly out by junior right fielder Matt Fleishman (East Northport, N.Y.) and then scored when Thompson was called for his second balk of the game. A second run was manufactured in the inning when Hall bunted for a single, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored when freshman second baseman Michael Erb (Camarillo, Calif.) singled through the left side.
An unearned run in the top of the sixth inning trimmed the Wildcats lead to 4-2 but Villanova responded by getting the run back in the bottom of the sixth inning and added two more for good measure in the seventh. Sophomore center fielder Paul Rambaud (Chicago, Ill.) singled and stole second with one out in the sixth, Koczirka beat out an infield hit and Calbi beat out a hit on a safety squeeze bunt that allowed Rambaud to score. Wager and Nelson each had run-scoring singles in the seventh inning to close the scoring.
The top of the first inning looked like it would be a shaky one for Helisek after he walked Brady Wilson to start the game and gave up a long RBI double to Grant Buckner with one out. Buckner was still at second with two away when T.J. Kuban hit a hard groundball back up the middle which Calbi made a diving stop to cut off after ranging several feet to his left. There was no play on Kuban but Calbi's ability to get to the ball would at the very least have saved a second run from scoring. He went a step further, though, getting Buckner hung up between third and home and then throwing him out at the plate.
That play seemed to change the tone of the game entirely and after the Wildcats tied the game at 1-1 Helisek retired 14 of the next 17 batters he faced until a walk and a fielding error broke up the streak with one out in the sixth inning. After the error allowed the second West Virginia run to score Helisek got back into a groove and set down eight of the game's last 11 hitters.
Villanova goes for a sweep of the three-game series on Sunday afternoon at 12:15 p.m.
NOTES: Helisek pitched his first career complete game as a freshman in a win over Lehigh on April 7, 2009 ... Despite registering his first win in 10 starts this season Helisek lowered his ERA in conference games to 4.04 ... BIG EAST batters are hitting just .252 against him in six starts ... Wildcat batters advanced a runner on 16-of-22 opportunities in the game ... Villanova had three bunt singles and three sacrifices in the game, raising its total on the season to 26 bunt singles and 43 sacrifices ... Calbi has seven of each ... He leads the team with a .394 batting average in conference games ... Erb is second on the team in hitting in BIG EAST play at a .293 clip and is batting .300 overall in his last eight games.