Baseball starts with sweep

Kyle Laskowski

Senior Danny Poydenis helped Villanova put the exclamation point on a three-game, season opening sweep of Norfolk State on Sunday. Poydenis hit two home runs and had six RBIs, leading the Wildcats to a 19-9 win. ‘Nova’s 11 runs in the final three innings were too much for Norfolk to handle; their record dropped to 1-5.

The ‘Cats got the early lead when Poydenis hit a two-run home run to left field in the top of the first inning.

Norfolk promptly tied the game in the bottom of the inning and took the lead in the second on an RBI single by Darryl Chever.

In the fourth it was Poydenis again who helped the ‘Cats regain the lead. After two RBI hits by Kris Molloy and Angelo Petracca, Poydenis stepped to the plate. He hit a towering two-run home run to give the ‘Cats a 6-3 lead. Poydenis’ two home runs are a career high. He only had one all last season, despite the fact that he has one of the top bats on the team.

“He was probably our best offensive player last year,” head coach Joe Godri, said. “He’s been a really good offensive player throughout his college career.”

Norfolk battled back and the ‘Cats only carried a 8-7 lead into the seventh inning. That was when the bats came alive. Scoring had been Villanova’s Achilles’ heel the past few years, but an unexpected outburst in the late innings gave hope for a productive year. It all started again with Poydenis who got a bases loaded walk which forced a run in, making it 9-7. After another walk and a hit batsman, Frank Cirone singled in Poydenis, giving the ‘Cats a 12-7 lead.

The ‘Cats added seven more runs in the final two innings, beating Norfolk going away.

On Saturday the two teams played a double header. Wildcat pitcher Nick Allen started game one by throwing three innings of shutout baseball. The ‘Cats led 3-0 going into the fourth inning until Norfolk was able to tie the game scoring three runs in consecutive innings off of Allen. Mark Ciccotelli came in relief and helped Allen get out of a sixth inning jam, which kept the game tied at 3-3.

The tie wouldn’t last long. In the seventh inning, second baseman Mark Cardillo hit an RBI double which scored Adrian Schau. That gave the ‘Cats a 4-3 lead and turned out to be the eventual game winner.

Schau also came in to pitch in the bottom of the inning and got his first save of the year.

The second game was dominated by pitching, but it didn’t seem that way at first. Senior Dan Farino threw 10 straight balls to start the bottom of the first inning. He got a break when he was able to pick off a Norfolk runner and get the inning’s first out. He then got himself out of the inning by striking out Brandon Norvell, with the bases loaded.

“I just tried to keep my composure and rely on experience to get me through,” Farino said.

“Dan kept his composure, he found a way to work through things when he wasn’t at his best,” coach Godri said. “Then he settled down a little bit and did a nice job.”

He pitched three more innings of no-hit, no-run baseball. He left the game with 1-0 lead, and a no hitter.

“When we took him out, he had a high pitch count,” Godri said. “We probably would have let him go had it been later in the season.”

His successor, Michael Grodecki, did not miss a beat. Grodecki, who improved his velocity in the off season, closed the game with three shutout innings giving up only three hits, paving the way for a 1-0 Wildcat victory.

“He came in and absolutely shut Norfolk down for the rest of the game,” Farino said. “All weekend long someone stepped up when we needed it and that’s the sign of a good team.”

That is just what the Wildcats will have to be this weekend when they take on nationally ranked Georgia Tech in a three-game set.

“Our best chance is to get somewhere between the sixth and ninth inning in a one or two-run ballgame, execute offensively and then rely on our bullpen,” Godri said of the upcoming series.

That series will start today, at 4 p.m. in Atlanta, Ga.