‘Cats take four of five, eight of last nine

Stephen Buszka

Coming into this past weekend, the Villanova baseball team sported a five-game winning streak. After an offensive outburst in the first two games against Seton Hall, the then-seven-game winning streak came to an end on a rainy Sunday afternoon as the Pirates took their first game of the three-game of the series. With pitching sparked by Ryan Wendler’s impressive scoreless innings streak, ‘Nova got back on track, taking the next two Diamond Five games from local rivals Temple and Saint Joseph’s.

In the opening game of a three-game series against the Seton Hall Pirates, the Wildcats started off with a bang. Sophomore Ryan Arcadia led off the top of the first inning with a triple. This was a bad omen for Pirate’s pitcher Dan Merklinger, who was forced to throw over 40 pitches in a 23-minute half-inning in which the ‘Cats crossed the plate four times. By the third inning the Pirates closed in on a five run lead by plating four runs. After ‘Nova scored six more runs to pull ahead 11-4, Seton Hall retaliated with five of their own. Fortunately for the ‘Cats, junior reliever Mike Loree was able to pitch the final 2.1 innings for his second save of the season. The top of the order truly shined with hitters one through four batting .600 (9-for-15). Senior Jeremy Hunt led the way with four RBIs, including a two-run ninth inning home run to bring the final score to 13-9, while Arcadia crossed the plate five times in the game. Both were 3-for-4 on the day.

Rain dampened game two of the series as play was postponed midway through the fourth with the Pirates batting in the bottom half of the inning. Upon resuming the game on Sunday, Seton Hall broke the 3-3 tie following a walk and a single against junior pitcher Nate Hall. As rain continued to fall, ‘Nova turned to small ball. Following a hit-by-pitch and a sacrifice bunt-turned single, a sacrifice bunt placed both runners in scoring position for sophomore Derek Shunk to double home two runs. ‘Nova continued to build on that momentum and plated a total of eight runs in the top half of the seventh as the 12 batters came to the plate. Seton Hall scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth, but Hall was able to fend off their attack for the 11-6 win, his third of the season.

The final game of the series was played immediately following and the ‘Cats were not as fortunate. Despite a 2-for-4, two RBI performance by senior Craig Mirsky, ‘Nova was only able to total five hits and four runs. The lack of a dominant offense that has carried the team all season hurt as those four runs fell short of the five put up by the Pirates. Freshman starting pitcher Josh Eidell let up five runs in the first three innings but settled down after that. He finished the game surrendering only one walk and nine hits. Despite the 5-4 loss, the 2-1 performance during the series bumped Villanova up to ninth place in the Big East standings.

After a day off, the ‘Cats came back looking to start a new winning streak. The responsibility to bring this to fruition rested on the arm of sophomore Ryan Wendler who pitcher brilliantly for eight innings to prolong his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 22. Wendler gave up only five hits and two walks in the game, while striking out three.

The shutout gave Villanova the team’s fourth straight shutout against a non-conference opponent. The team’s offense was jumpstarted by freshman Matt McFolling’s first collegiate home run, a two-run shot in the bottom of the second. The team was led the rest of the way by multi-hit days from Arcadia, Hunt and junior Frank Cirone who doubled twice. Villanova cruised to an 8-0 victory.

Great pitching carried over into the next Diamond Five game, this time against rival Saint Joseph’s. Hunt and Shunk led the way offensively going 3-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI and 2-for-4 with a run scored, respectively. Freshman Joe Rosati contributed to the win by driving in two runs on a first-inning triple and scoring in the same frame.

Sophomore pitchers Jordan Ellis and Frank Jankowski combined for the eight-inning eight hitter. Jankowski allowed the lone run scored by the Hawks. Ellis got credit for the 4-1 win, improving his record to 4-1.

The Wildcats now stand at 20-18 and 5-9 in the Big East. The wins against the Owls and Hawks improved the team’s Diamond Five record to 6-1. Villanova has won eight of nine games and heads to Morgantown, W.Va. tonight to kick off a three-game set against the Mountaineers (27-13) who are 7-8 in the Big East.