by Ryan Irwin
Villanova’s bid for a comeback victory fell short in the ninth inning Friday, falling 7-6 to Monmouth after scoring three runs in the ninth and stranding the tying run on second base.
With two outs in the top of the ninth, junior right fielder Connor Jones came up to the plate with runners on second and third, collecting two RBI’s with a single to the right side.
Senior utility man Dan Parham then struck out swinging to end the Wildcats’ hopes of a comeback win on the team’s season opener.
Junior starting pitcher Pat Young pitched well in his debut, going five and a third innings, giving up three earned runs on nine hits. Young was tagged with two of those runs when they scored after he had left the game.
Young seemed to dance in and out of trouble the whole game, escaping from runners at the corners situations in both the fourth and fifth innings through double plays and timely pitches.
’Nova took its first lead of the day with a pair of runs in the fourth on a pair of errors from Monmouth.
Senior shortstop Tyler Sciacca led the Wildcats with two hits over five at bats, including reaching base in that exciting ninth inning.
In four of the first six innings, Monmouth was able to get its leadoff hitter on base.
The Hawks were finally able to take control of the game in the sixth and seventh innings, scoring three runs in each.
Villanova’s lone bright spot out of the bullpen came from junior reliever Chris Haggarty, who pitched one and two-third scoreless innings to close out the game.
Monmouth’s starter only lasted four innings while giving up three runs, two of which were unearned.
The Hawks were able to get solid production from their leadoff man, Kyle Perry, who collected three hits and drove in as many runners.
The Wildcats were supposed to play four games during the weekend’s four game tournament, the Ron Fraser Classic.
Strong inclement weather canceled three of the four games that were supposed to be held at the USA Baseball Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina. Villanova was slated to play Canisius, Toledo and Wright State over the weekend.
Instead, the ’Cats will travel to North Carolina State next weekend to North Carolina State to face the host Wolf Pack, as well as Wagner and La Salle.
Villanova is projected to finish last in the Big East this year, out of 11 teams. Louisville was voted first overall, receiving eight of the 11 first-place votes.
The Wildcats have not won the Big East baseball championship since 1989.
St. John’s received the remaining first-place nods, and is projected second overall. Notre Dame, Connecticut and South Florida round out the top five.
Sciacca was selected to the 2013 Preseason All-Big East Team. He had a stellar 2012 campaign, finishing with a .359 average, 39 RBI, 17 stolen bases, and an exemplary .980 fielding percentage.
He was the lone nomination for the preseason team. This does not come as too big a shock, however, because there are only 15 spots on the team, and nine of them went to top three teams in the projected standings (Louisville, St. John’s and Notre Dame).
Villanova will open up the Big East schedule against Rutgers in Plymouth Meeting, Penn. on March 28-30. Projected No. 1 Louisville comes to town from May 3-5.
The Wildcats will look to advance to the Big East Championship tournament after missing it for four straight years. The tournament runs from May 22-26.