April 25, 2014
VILLANOVA, Pa. - The history of the Villanova baseball program spans nearly 150 years and has included well over 3,200 games played. About one out of every 20 games in the long timespan of Wildcats baseball has been played against Seton Hall, who Villanova has faced on the diamond more times than any other opponent. The teams meet this weekend for a three-game series at Owen T. Carroll Field, beginning with the opener this afternoon at 3 p.m. Games two and three of the series are on Saturday and Sunday, with first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m. both days.
The all-time series between the Wildcats and the Pirates spans parts of three centuries, with the first-ever meetings taking place way back in 1898 when the teams played once on each campus. Villanova won both of those games, 17-6 on May 26 and 6-1 on June 3. Over the years the Wildcats would go on to win 20 of the first 26 games in the all-time series. It still wasn't 1950 yet.
A new era in the rivalry began in 1985 when Villanova and Seton Hall met for the first time as BIG EAST opponents. The visiting Pirates swept a three-game series on March 31-April 1, 1985 and then took two of three at home from the Wildcats later in the season. Entering play this weekend Seton Hall owns a 59-38 edge over Villanova in regular season conference action.
Each team has played better on the opponent's home field, with the Wildcats owning a record of 37-40 in road games in the series and a 34-49 mark at home. The trend has held up recently, as Villanova won two of three games on April 20-21, 2012 in its last trip to Owen T. Carroll Field. In that series the Pirates claimed an 8-2 victory in the series opener but the Wildcats came back the next day to sweep a doubleheader by scores of 7-4 (12 innings) and 12-5.
Villanova (12-25, 3-6 BIG EAST) is playing the front end of two straight conference series on the road this weekend. Following the series versus Seton Hall and a pair of midweek games the Wildcats will be back on the road to face Georgetown next weekend. Last season Villanova went 5-7 on the road in conference play.
Sophomore shortstop Eric Lowe (Arlington Heights, Ill.) and senior center fielder Connor Jones (Chandler, Ariz.) have been the hottest batters for the Wildcats of late. Lowe is batting .615 (8-for-13) with five walks and a .722 on-base percentage over his last five games and has also gone six straight contests and 24 consecutive plate appearances without striking out. Jones is 9-for-20 (.450) over the last five contests, leads the team with seven runs scored in that stretch and is tied with Lowe for the team lead with five walks over the past five outings.
On the mound senior reliever Matt Meurer (Katy, Texas) continues to have a terrific season. He made his 20th appearance of the year and pitched a scoreless inning against Saint Joseph's on Wednesday afternoon. Meurer has a win and five saves on the season and is sporting a 1.14 ERA over 31 2/3 innings pitched. His appearance in Wednesday's game was the 65th of his Villanova career and moved him into sole possession of sixth place on the Wildcats all-time list of games pitched. With three more outings Meurer would tie John Klopp (1993-96) for fifth place with 68 career appearances.
Villanova will be led on the mound this weekend by its usual starting rotation of junior Josh Harris (Streamwood, Ill.), junior Max Almonte (Long Beach, N.Y.) and freshman Hunter Schryver (Mechanicsburg, Pa.). Harris is coming off his best start of the season, a season-long eight-inning stint against Creighton last week in which he gave up just six hits and earned his third victory of the year.