May 18, 2007
PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. - Villanova (28-22, 12-14 Big East) is in a New York state of mind as the team clinched a spot in the BIG EAST Tournament with a 5-4 victory in 12 innings over Rutgers (35-18, 19-7 Big East) on Friday at the Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth.
The Wildcats are headed for the conference tournament for the first time in 10 years and will travel to Brooklyn, N.Y. for a first round game on Tuesday, May 22. With one game still remaining in the regular season, Villanova can finish as high as fifth place in the league standings.
The last time the Wildcats qualified for the BIG EAST Tournament was in 1997, when Villanova reached the championship game for the fifth time in nine all-time tournament appearances.
Sophomore Joe Cotter (Bryn Mawr, Pa.) drew an eight-pitch walk with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 12th inning to force in the winning run. Cotter fouled off two 3-and-2 pitches before taking ball four, and junior James Dolbier (Lebanon, N.J.) -- who started the inning with a single -- sprinted home with the winning run as the entire team mobbed home plate.
Friday's game was full of drama against a top rival that is vying for the league's regular season championship. The Scarlet Knights led 3-1 going to the bottom of the seventh inning, but a three-run rally by the Wildcats gave Villanova the lead for the first time, 4-3 heading into the eighth.
Rutgers got a run back in the top of the eighth inning to tie the score 4-4 but was shutout after that thanks to the stellar relief pitching of sophomore Josh Eidell (Norristown, Pa.), who entered the game with one out in the eighth inning and pitched 4 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn his third win of the season.
Junior Dan Terpak (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) singled home the two tying runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and sophomore Matt McFolling (Chicago, Ill.) scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch moments later.
Although the Scarlet Knights tied the game with the lone run in the top of the eighth inning, the Wildcats survived rallies by Rutgers the rest of the way and wound up forcing the Scarlet Knights to strand 11 runners on base. Villanova left 15 runners on base in its own right, but continued its trend of outstanding production with the bases loaded this season when Cotter took ball four.
On the day of the team's annual golf outing and in the midst of celebrating Alumni Day at the stadium, the Wildcats treated a season-high crowd to one thrill after another which culminated in the victory that sends the team soaring into the postseason.
The final game of the regular season will be on Saturday at Noon when the team plays the rubber game of the series against Rutgers. The seedings for the conference tournament will be announced on Saturday night, and Villanova's final spot in the standings will determine its game time in the first round of the tournament on Tuesday.