This past weekend marked the beginning of the baseball team’s Big East conference play. The Wildcats could not find a way to win in their three-game series against the St. John’s Red Storm in Queens, N.Y.
On March 20, the Wildcats opened up the series against St. John’s with a 19-7 loss, snapping Villanova’s eight-game winning streak. At the Jack Kaiser Stadium, the home team tallied big-scoring innings after the Wildcats scored the game’s first five runs.
Junior Brian Streilein recorded the loss in 4 2/3 innings, as St. John’s took advantage of friendly bounces in the middle innings.
After falling behind 10-5 in the fifth inning, Villanova chipped away with single runs in the sixth and seventh innings. The Wildcats, however, left 13 runners on base in the game, including nine in scoring positions and were unable to capitalize beyond a lone run after loading the bases with none out in the top of the seventh.
Redshirt freshman Matt Szczur walked to lead off the game, reached on an infield hit in the third inning and later had a pair of singles. He raised his season average to .407 and took over the team lead in hitting. McFolling finished 2-for-4 while stretching his own hitting streak to nine games.
Hall also had two hits and senior Wes Borden reached base three times via a hit and two walks. Villanova walked eight times and struck out just three times against four pitchers from the Red Storm.
Following Friday’s loss, St. John’s barely escaped with a 3-2 win. Despite a very strong pitching effort by junior Kevin Crimmel, the Wildcats found themselves unable to even the three game series in the second game. The Red Storm rallied for the win with a tying run in the bottom of the seventh and the eventual winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Joe Pannick singled in the bottom of the fourth inning to tie the game at 1-1, but Villanova answered back in the top of the fifth to reclaim a 2-1 advantage. McFolling led off the fifth inning with a single to extend his hitting streak to 10 games, and senior Joe Cotter followed with a sacrifice bunt. One batter later, redshirt freshman David Koczirka singled to drive in McFolling before the Red Storm suffered further in the frame.
St. John’s pushed the go-ahead run across in the bottom of the eighth inning with three straight singles against sophomore Mike Francisco. Tim Morris started the rally with a hit and went first-to-third on the next single before coming in on a hit by Carlos Del Rosario.
The Wildcats didn’t go quietly in the top of the ninth inning, as senior Wes Borden worked a seven-pitch walk to open the inning and pinch runner Joe Rosati stole second with nobody out. McFolling grounded out to advance Rosati to third with one down, but Villanova was unable to bring in the equalizer from third base
After extending his hitting streak to 15 games, Szczur went 0-for-2 and ended the run.
To end the weekend, the Wildcats fell again on Sunday. A big inning late in the game hurt Villanova (10-9, 0-3 Big East) for the second time during the weekend, and the Wildcats were defeated by St. John’s (11-7, 3-0 Big East) by a final of 10-3 on Sunday afternoon at Jack Kaiser Stadium. The Red Storm scored six runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to complete a three-game sweep.
Chris Pack received the loss, as he allowed four earned runs in seven innings pitched.
McFolling extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a solo home run in the sixth inning and then added a single that set up the run-scoring opportunity in the eighth inning. Sophomore Dain Hall delivered a two-run single in the fifth inning to account for the first two Villanova runs.
Villanova trailed 4-0 after four innings but got back into the game with two runs in the fifth inning and one in the sixth to close the gap to 4-3.
The Wildcats then had runners at first and second with one out in the top of the eighth inning, but were held at bay by St. John’s, which then put the game out of reach in the bottom half of the inning.
In their next Big East three-game series beginning Friday, the ‘Cats will face West Virginia at home in Plymouth Meeting.