June 11, 2012
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - Junior second baseman Tyler Sciacca (Staten Island, N.Y.) was named the Philadelphia Big Five Baseball Player of the Year and led a group of five Villanova players who earned end-of-season recognition, as voted on by the head coaches and sports information directors of the Big Five teams. Sciacca was also the All-Big Five second baseman and was joined on the team by senior designated hitter Matt Fleishman (East Northport, N.Y.), senior third baseman Kevin Wager (Holden, Mo.) and sophomore starting pitcher Pat Young (The Woodlands, Texas). In addition, sophomore relief pitcher Matt Meurer (Spring, Texas) was named to the Philadelphia Big Five Academic Team.
Sciacca emerged as one of the top hitters in the BIG EAST this season and finished the year ranked first or second on the team in nine different offensive categories. Making his season even more impressive is that he was returning from an injury which forced him to miss the entire 2011 campaign. Fully healthy from the very beginning of the year he joined Wager and Fleishman as the only three Wildcats to start all 55 games during the season.
Villanova had a big turnaround in 2012 from the previous season and a big part of the improvement came from an offense that was among the best in the BIG EAST this season and among the best at Villanova in recent memory. Sciacca led the charge with a .359 batting average, a BIG EAST best six triples and team highs of 24 walks, 17 stolen bases and five sacrifice flies. He also tied for the team lead with 79 hits and a .500 slugging percentage while ranking second on the squad with 43 runs scored and 16 doubles.
Sciacca started the season strong and never looked back but of particular note was a three-week stretch in March when he was nearly impossible to get out. Sciacca put together a 15-game hitting streak from March 10-31 - the longest hit streak on the team for the season - during which he batted .508 (31-for-61) with 11 multi-hit games, seven doubles, four triples, six stolen bases and 14 runs scored.
Last month Sciacca was named a second team All-BIG EAST selection and during the year he received weekly honors from either the BIG EAST or the Big Five a total of six times. This year marked the first career postseason awards for Sciacca, who has one year of remaining eligibility.
Fleishman rated as one of the top power hitters in the BIG EAST and in his final collegiate season batted .320 while matching Sciacca with a team-high .500 slugging percentage. Fleishman led Villanova with 45 runs scored, 17 doubles and five home runs while finishing second on the team with 42 runs batted in and 23 walks. He single-handedly accounted for more than half of the Wildcats home run production (five out of nine) and delivered consistent offensive production in the middle of the batting order.
Early in the season Fleishman compiled a string of 22 consecutive games reaching base safely from February 25 through March 27, a streak in which he batted .432 (38-for-88) with 12 walks and a .490 on-base percentage. In that same span Fleishman had 15 extra-base hits (nine doubles, three triples, three home runs) and a .705 slugging percentage.
Fleishman was a first team All-BIG EAST selection after the season and became only the second player under head coach Joe Godri to receive first team honors from the league. Fleishman earned weekly honors four times during the season, including being named to the BIG EAST Honor Roll after he hit safely in three straight games and smashed an Opening Day grand slam at Arkansas.
Perhaps the most significant production Villanova received this season came from Wager, who moved from first base to third base early in the year and had easily his best offensive season in four years of collegiate ball. His career year made him one of the best hitters in the BIG EAST and he finished the season leading the Wildcats with 47 runs batted in while tying for the team lead with 79 hits. Wager batted .350 for the year with a .411 on-base percentage, 11 doubles and eight stolen bases.
In addition to his overall totals Wager was also a picture of consistency during the season and led Villanova in both multi-hit games and multi-RBI games. He had 25 multi-hit games in 55 starts, including six games with three or more hits. He also had 13 multi-RBI games. No single game was bigger for Wager than the finale of a three-game series at Norfolk State when he became only the second hitter in school history to have six hits in a game. Wager went 6-for-7 with four runs scored and five RBI in the game and was named the Big Five Player of the Week after hitting .533 (8-for-15) in a three-game sweep of Norfolk State.
While much attention was paid to the Wildcats offense during the year the pitching staff was anchored by Young from start to finish. He made a team-high 14 starts and also led Villanova in wins, innings pitched, ERA and strikeouts. Young recorded eight quality starts in his 14 outings and pitched into the seventh inning or later seven times, as well as getting into at least the sixth inning in all but three of his starts.
He finished the year 6-5 with a 4.39 ERA while logging 82.0 innings and recording 61 strikeouts. Young's best game of the season was a 5-2 win at nationally-ranked Louisville, in which he carried a five-hitter into the ninth inning and allowed just one earned run in a career-high eight-plus innings. He averaged 6 1/3 innings in nine BIG EAST starts and won three conference games while holding opponents to a .264 batting average against him.
Villanova also got a lift during the season from Meurer, who quickly developed into one of the team's top arms out of the bullpen and was named to the Big Five Academic Team for a combination of his efforts on the mound as well as his success academically.
Meurer appeared in 19 games out of the bullpen and was second on the team in appearances. He went 3-2 with two saves and a 4.11 ERA for the year while pitching 35.0 innings and holding opposing batters to a .257 average. Meurer walked just seven batters all year and struck out 27 while finishing the season with a 1.20 WHIP ratio.
Off the field Meurer is a Mechanical Engineering major and had a cumulative 3.76 grade-point average at the start of the spring semester. He will be a BIG EAST Academic All-Star for the 2011-12 academic year in addition to notching the spot on the Big Five Academic Team.
In addition to the Player of the Year nod for Sciacca the Big Five also announced its Pitcher of the Year (Kyle Mullen, Saint Joseph's), Rookie of the Year (Nick Lustrino, Temple), Student-Athlete of the Year (Pat Christensen, La Salle), Coach of the Year (Fritz Hamburg, Saint Joseph's) and Team of the Year (Saint Joseph's).
The All-Big Five squad consisted of catcher Brian O'Keefe (Saint Joseph's), first baseman Kevin Taylor (Saint Joseph's), second baseman Tyler Sciacca (Villanova), third basemen Kevin Wager (Villanova) and Steve Nikorak (Temple), shortstop Nick Lustrino (Temple), outfielders Ryan Deitrich (Penn), George Smith, Jr. (La Salle) and Greg Zebrack (Penn), designated hitter Matt Fleishman (Villanova), starting pitchers Kevin Christy (La Salle), Kyle Mullen (Saint Joseph's), Vince Voiro (Penn) and Pat Young (Villanova) and relief pitcher Pat Christensen (La Salle).
The Big Five Academic Team consisted of Pat Christensen (La Salle), Matt Elko (Temple), Greg Zebrack (Penn), Kyle Mullen (Saint Joseph's) and Matt Meurer (Villanova).