May 4, 2012
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - Junior center fielder Paul Rambaud (Chicago, Ill.) doubled home the game-winning run with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning and Villanova (27-20, 9-10 BIG EAST) overcame giving up a three-run lead in the top half of the inning to outlast Notre Dame (23-22, 9-10 BIG EAST) by a final score of 10-9 in the opener of a three-game series at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on Friday afternoon.
In a game where the Wildcats scored first and never trailed the Fighting Irish drew even for the second time by scoring three runs in the top of the ninth inning to tie the score at 9-9. The potential go-ahead run was stranded in scoring position however, and Villanova was finally able to celebrate the victory when Rambaud notched his second walk-off RBI of the season.
Junior catcher Brandon Clark (Spring, Texas) worked out a walk with one out and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth inning and senior first baseman Adam Nelson (St. Joseph, Mo.) dropped a single into shallow center field to move him into scoring position. Rambaud came up with the two runners on and hit a 3-1 fastball down the left field line to easily score Clark with the game-winning run.
The win is the eighth in 10 games for the Wildcats and the 21st walk-off win in the history of the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth, including the third this season. Villanova led by as many as four runs after taking a 7-3 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning but Notre Dame got within one thanks to three runs in the top of the seventh inning and then finally tied the game with two outs in the ninth.
Junior closer Stephen Ostapeck (Sacramento, Calif.) entered the game with one out and a runner at first in the top of the ninth inning, with the Wildcats leading 9-7 at that point. He induced a groundball to the first batter he faced, Charlie Markson, but it came on a full count with the runner going and went through a hole on the right side of the infield to give the Fighting Irish runners at the corners.
Ostapeck (4-2, 6.26 ERA) then got Mac Hudgins to foul out for the second out but on another full count pinch hitter Blaise Lezynski doubled to deep right field to drive in both runners. Ostapeck prevented any further damage by striking out leadoff hitter Frank DeSico to end the inning.
Before the excitement of the final inning Villanova received an excellent start from senior left-hander Kyle Helisek (Cranberry Township, Pa.), who pitched 6 1/3 innings while tying a career high with seven strikeouts. Helisek allowed only five hits and had given up just three runs when he came out of the game but two runners that he left on base came in to score after he was out of the game and altered his final pitching line. Helisek has held opposing hitters to a .186 batting average against him in his last two starts.
Rambaud doubled and scored in the bottom of the eighth inning, when the Wildcats scored twice and looked to have given themselves some insurance with a 9-6 lead and three outs to get. Rambaud continues to be a vital part of the team's offense from the No. 9 spot in the batting order. In today's game he was 2-for-2 with a sacrifice bunt and was also hit by a pitch twice. Nelson had two hits and two runs scored in the No. 8 spot in the lineup and the rest of the offense that Villanova needed it got from its first five hitters.
The top five spots in the batting order combined to go 9-for-21 (.429) with five runs scored and nine RBI in the winning effort. Senior shortstop Marlon Calbi (Montclair, N.J.) extended his streak of games reaching base safely by going 2-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBI, while the trio of senior third baseman Kevin Wager (Holden, Mo.), junior second baseman Tyler Sciacca (Staten Island, N.Y.) and junior left fielder Steve Schrenk (Brigantine, N.J.) all joined him with two hits and two RBI apiece.
Calbi hit a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the second inning to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead and Schrenk had an RBI single to left field in the third inning to extend the margin to three runs. After the Fighting Irish scored three runs against Helisek to tie the game at 3-3 in the top of the fourth inning Villanova responded in a big way.
In the bottom of the fourth inning the Wildcats not only took advantage of three errors by Notre Dame to put together a four-run inning and take a 7-3 lead but in the process knocked out Fighting Irish starting pitcher Will Hudgins after 3 1/3 innings. Hudgins began the day as the BIG EAST leader in ERA (2.22) and was the victim of shaky defense behind him. He gave up seven runs in those 3 1/3 innings but just one of those was earned. Hudgins did allow eight hits to the 23 batters he faced, however.
Notre Dame used six different relievers after Hudgins departed and Joe Spano (0-4, 4.15 ERA) came out on the short end of the decision. He recorded the final out in the bottom of the eighth inning and the first out in the top of the ninth but was replaced by Matt Ternowchek with Clark at first and one out before the consecutive hits by Nelson and Rambaud won the game.
It was a critical factor in the game that each time the Fighting Irish rallied they were stopped just short of taking a lead of their own. Notre Dame had already tied the score at 3-3 in the top of the fourth inning and had runners at second and third with one out when Helisek struck out DeSico swinging and designated hitter Ryan Bull looking to get out of the jam.
Wager and senior designated hitter Matt Fleishman (East Northport, N.Y.) both reached on fielder's choice plays which involved errors in the bottom of the fourth inning, while Sciacca and Schrenk had run-scoring singles. Villanova won its ninth one-run game of the year and remains undefeated this season when leading after the sixth, seventh or eighth innings.
Trey Mancini had three hits and three runs scored to lead the Fighting Irish offensively and he got the ninth inning rally started with a solo home run to left-center field leading off the inning. Alex Robinson added two hits and two runs batted in.
Coming up on Saturday the Wildcats host their annual Alumni and Fan Appreciation Day, with a pregame barbecue taking place at the field beginning at 11:30 a.m. First pitch in the second game of the three-game series is at 1:15.
NOTES: Calbi moved into a tie for 10th place in school history with his 191st came played ... Helisek matched his career best total of seven strikeouts ... He achieved the feat for the first time this season and fourth time in his career.