May 17, 2003
PLYMOUTH MEETING, PA. - The Villanova baseball team ended the 2003 season on a high note on Saturday, May 17th, at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth, getting an outstanding complete game effort from senior pitcher John Yeager in a 6-2 victory over 22nd ranked Rutgers. Senior leftfielder Brian Newbold highlighted a five-run fourth inning for the Wildcats with a two-run home run to help Villanova overcome an early 2-0 deficit. With the win, the `Cats ended the season with a 14-32 overall record and a 6-19 record in the Big East Conference. The Scarlet Knights, the Big East regular season champions, fell to 32-18 overall and 19-6 in conference with Saturday's loss.
Rutgers opened the game's scoring in the top of the second inning, putting one run on the board against Yeager and the Wildcats. Designated hitter Matt Wolski started the inning with a single, stole second, and went to third on a throwing error by catcher Greg Fater. Two batters later, Wolski scored on a sacrifice fly by centerfielder Johnnie Defendis to give the Scarlet Knights a 1-0 lead.
In the top of the third inning, Rutgers added another run to extend its lead to 2-0. Graig Badger singled to left with one out in the inning to get things started for the Scarlet Knights. Badger would come around to score later in the inning on a two-out RBI double by rightfielder Jeff Frazier.
The game would stay that way until the bottom of the fourth inning when the Wildcat offense finally got on track. Senior shortstop Dustin Downs walked to start the fourth inning, moved to third on a double by senior first baseman Mitch Mitchell and later came around to score on an RBI groundout by senior Ryan Crammer to cut the Rutgers' lead to 2-1. With one out and Mitchell on third, Newbold launched a 2-0 fastball over the left field fence for a two-run home run. Newbold's fourth home run of the season gave the `Cats their first lead of the game at 3-2. Villanova wasn't done yet, however, as sophomore rightfielder Alan Day kept the big inning going with a single to third base. With two outs and runners at first and second, sophomore second baseman Mark Cardillo ripped a two-run double into the gap in left-center to extend the Wildcat lead to 6-2.
Villanova remained in control thanks in large part to the pitching of Yeager. The Scarlet Knights started both the seventh, eighth and ninth innings with singles, but each time were shut down by the Wildcats' savvy right-hander.
In the ninth, Wolski led off for Rutgers with a single to right. Yeager responded by getting two straight fly ball outs to put himself one out away from a complete game victory. With runners on first and second after catcher Alberto Vasquez was hit by a pitch, pinch hitter Jamell Rosario stepped to the plate for the Scarlet Knights to face Yeager. The Villanova senior finished what he started, striking out Rosario looking on a 3-2 curve ball to give the Wildcats the 6-2 victory.
The win was the third of the season for Yeager, who also posted his third complete game of the year. He allowed two runs (one earned) on nine hits in nine innings, striking out two and walking one. Yeager threw 121 pitched in the contest, 86 of which were strikes.
Taking the loss on the mound for Rutgers was Aaron Kalb (2-2), who gave up five runs on five hits in 3.2 innings of work, striking out two and walking two.
At the plate for the Wildcats, Newbold went one-for-four with a home run and two RBI, and Cardillo went one-for-three with a double and two RBI. In addition, Day and Poydenis each had two hits, and seniors Downs, Mitchell and Crammer each added one hit apiece.
The Villanova season finale was also highlighted by a number of fine defensive plays, including a highlight reel diving catch by senior center fielder Chris Graziano who has made these types of plays a trademark during his career. The senior finished his career as the school's all-time leader in stolen bases with 105.
The game was the final contest in the careers of 11 outstanding Wildcat players - Marshall Canosa, Crammer, Downs, Fater, Graziano, Tom Kandybowicz, Mitchell, Newbold, Mark Rocca, James Russell and Yeager.