May 6, 2012
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - Senior first baseman Adam Nelson (St. Joseph, Mo.) and senior third baseman Kevin Wager (Holden, Mo.) combined to drive in three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning but Villanova (27-22, 9-12 BIG EAST) came up just short of finishing a dramatic rally and lost by a 5-4 margin to Notre Dame (25-22, 11-10 BIG EAST) at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on Sunday afternoon. After winning the opening game of the series the Wildcats dropped the final two contests of the weekend.
Sunday's rubber game was a good one and the score was tied 1-1 through five innings of play before the Fighting Irish scored four runs on just two swings of the bat in the top of the sixth inning to take control with a 5-1 lead. Villanova, meanwhile, was stymied offensively for the second straight day and did not manage a long inning at the plate having its back to the wall in the ninth inning.
Four straight singles opened the bottom of the ninth inning for the Wildcats, who got started when junior left fielder Steve Schrenk (Brigantine, N.J.) led off and singled through the left side. Behind him, sophomore right fielder Connor Jones (Chandler, Ariz.) and freshman pinch hitter Brandon Carr (Danville, Calif.) each singled with two strikes on them to load the bases with nobody out.
Nelson came up and got the third straight hit with two strikes for Villanova on a floating single that dropped into shallow center field. That scored Schrenk to narrow the Wildcats deficit to 5-2 and the bases were still loaded with none out.
At that point Notre Dame turned to closer Dan Slania, who promptly got a strikeout and a foul out to the catcher to pin Villanova down to its final out. Wager then came up and hit the first pitch he saw for a line drive single into right field that scored two more runs and moved the potential tying run into scoring position. Slania finished the job though, getting junior second baseman Tyler Sciacca (Staten Island, N.Y.) to pop up on a fly ball to shallow right field to end the game.
Despite finishing with nine hits in the game - compared to just six for the Fighting Irish - the Wildcats generated virtually all of their offense in the first and last innings of the game. Senior designated hitter Matt Fleishman (East Northport, N.Y.) doubled home the first run of the game in the bottom of the first inning but after that Villanova did not have another hit until Fleishman doubled again with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Fleishman and Nelson each went 2-for-3 with a run batted in and Wager finished the day with two hits, two RBI and a run scored for the Wildcats, who are 3-6 at home in BIG EAST play this season.
On the mound sophomore Max Almonte (Long Beach, N.Y.) made perhaps his finest start of the season before running into trouble during a long sixth inning. He allowed just one run on three hits while striking out six through the first five innings of the contest and eventually gave up just five hits to the 23 batters he faced in the game, including only one extra-base hit that did no damage in the top of the first inning.
At the bottom of the order Tommy Chase reached on an error to start the sixth inning and Almonte (1-4, 6.20 ERA) walked the next two hitters to load the bases with nobody out. He gave himself a chance to get out of the inning by getting number three hitter and BIG EAST home run leader Eric Jagielo to pop up to shallow left field but then the inning started to unravel quickly. Trey Mancini hit a two-run single through the left side to give Notre Dame a 3-1 lead, a wild pitch moved two runners up a base and Joe Hudson lined a single straight back up the middle to cap the four-run inning.
The single by Hudson ended the day for Almonte and two relievers combined to allow just one hit while striking out four over the final 3 2/3 innings. Junior Kevin MacLachlan (Matawan, N.J.) relieved Almonte and got out of the inning before going on to strike out the side in the seventh inning and pitch another scoreless frame in the eighth. Senior Julian Diaz (Trenton, N.J.) worked a scoreless ninth.
Getting the win for the Fighting Irish was starting pitcher Pat Connaughton (3-3, 2.35 ERA) who struck out seven while allowing an earned run on three hits over the first six innings.
Villanova has the coming week off for finals before opening a three-game series against Cincinnati on Friday at 3:45 p.m.