May 11, 2012
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - Senior starting pitcher Kyle Helisek (Cranberry Township, Pa.) made another strong start - his third straight solid outing - and pitched a season-high 7 1/3 innings but a two-run single by leadoff hitter Joey Bielek with two outs in the top of the seventh inning was ultimately the difference in a 5-2 loss for Villanova (27-23, 9-13 BIG EAST) against Cincinnati (15-36, 4-18 BIG EAST) at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth on Friday afternoon.
The game was the opener of a three-game series on the final home weekend of the season for the Wildcats, who scored a single run in the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the game, 1-1, only to have the Bearcats take the lead for good with three runs in the top of the seventh. Villanova scored its final run in the bottom of the ninth inning and had the potential tying run on deck with two outs but got no closer to completing what would have needed to be at least a four-run rally in the bottom of the ninth.
Helisek (3-5, 5.74 ERA) allowed just six hits and struck out four in his longest outing of the season and consistently kept the Cincinnati hitters off balance with a very sharp breaking ball and changeup. He registered 10 groundball outs, including seven in the first three innings alone, and the only pitch he threw that really hurt him was the single by Bielek in the seventh inning. That hit made the score 4-1 after the Bearcats had already scored once in the inning to regain a 2-1 lead.
Nearly the entire game was a well-pitched duel between Helisek and Cincinnati starter Zach Isler (1-5, 2.57 ERA), who surrendered just one unearned run over eight innings pitched despite issuing a season-high seven walks. He limited the Wildcats to four hits against him and Villanova was 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position during the game.
Cincinnati got on the board first with an unearned run in the top of the second inning and the 1-0 advantage stood up until the bottom of the sixth. With one out and a runner at first base in the home half of the sixth inning senior first baseman Adam Nelson (St. Joseph, Mo.) hit a groundball to third base and the throw to second for a force play was dropped by the second baseman. Junior center fielder Paul Rambaud (Chicago, Ill.) followed with a bunt single and the ball was misplayed after the hit, allowing junior catcher Brandon Clark (Spring, Texas) to score the Wildcats first run and briefly tie the game at 1-1.
Sophomore right fielder Connor Jones (Chandler, Ariz.) got things started for Villanova in the bottom of the sixth inning with a leadoff single and also reached base two other times via a base on balls. Each of the first four batters in the Wildcats lineup had hits, including a run-scoring single by senior designated hitter Matt Fleishman (East Northport, N.Y.) with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning which scored senior shortstop Marlon Calbi (Montclair, N.J.), who doubled with one out in the frame.
Ethan McAlpine and J.P. Jackson served as the catalysts for the Bearcats offense out of the seventh and eighth spots in the batting order and the pair combined for four hits, three runs scored and two driven in in the Cincinnati win.
The second game of the weekend series is on Saturday at 1:15 p.m. and Villanova will send sophomore right-hander Pat Young (The Woodlands, Texas) to the mound in search of his sixth win of the season.
NOTES: During the game Helisek moved into sole possession of sixth place in school history in career innings pitched ... He passed Russell Gianforcaro (1983-86) for sixth place and finished today's game with 267.0 career innings ... Over his last three starts Helisek has logged 19 1/3 innings pitched and limited opposing batters to a .203 batting average against him, with just 14 hits allowed in that span.