Szczur sparks Villanova rally

Amy Watkins

 A slow start and a 2-0 deficit on Sunday soon turned into a game dominated by Villanova as the baseball team cruised past Youngstown State, 9-3.

‘Nova’s offensive momentum didn’t come until the fifth inning, when the runs started pouring in and the ‘Cats took control. Homers by juniors David Koczirka and Matt Szczur in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively, helped expand the lead.

In the bottom of the first, the ‘Cats already found themselves behind as the game kicked off with two unearned runs allowed by Kyle McMyne. 

The sophomore pitcher struggled at first but quickly regained composure on the mound, retiring nine straight batters after YSU pulled ahead and giving up only three more hits before his eighth-inning exit.

After the Penguins first got on the board, both teams went dry at the plate, and the score was fixed at 2-0 until Villanova came out strong in the fifth and stole the lead.

To start off ‘Nova’s run, sophomore Adam Nelson, who walked and got to second on a wild pitch, scored on an RBI single by Szczur. A triple by junior Dain Hall then brought home both Szczur and senior Justin Bencsko, who reached base after being hit by a pitch.

In the sixth inning, it was once again all Villanova. Sophomore Matt Fleishman hit a single and came home on Szczur’s second RBI of the day, and senior Chris Johnson scored on a wild pitch with the bases loaded to give the ‘Cats a four-run cushion.

YSU remained quiet in the seventh, but ‘Nova only continued to excel as Koczirka hit a solo homerun to left field. Szczur followed suit and hit a homer of his own to start the eighth. The two juniors became only the second and third Wildcats to record homeruns this season.

The only chance for a Youngstown State comeback came in the top of the eighth when a ground-out hit by Jeremy Hymel brought in teammate C.J. Morris to make the score 6-3.

McMyne was then replaced by the first of two relief pitchers, senior Kevin Crimmel and junior Mike Francisco, who held down the Penguins while ‘Nova continued to go to work at the plate.

After Szczur’s run, Bencsko was again hit by a pitch and came home on a Hall single after stealing second. 

Sophomore Kevin Wager also stole second and scored on a double by Fleishman to tally Villanova’s last run of the game.

Although YSU pitcher Alex Oles allowed only three hits and struck out five batters in a five-inning stretch, he gave up the three unearned runs that pushed ‘Nova ahead and was pulled from the game. 

Oles and four relievers never found a way to stop the Wildcats and Szczur, who went 4 for 5.

The baseball team will play in the opening series of its Big East schedule this weekend. The Wildcats host Cincinnati for three games, beginning tomorrow at 3:15 p.m. in Plymouth Meeting, Pa.