by Matthew Sheridan
Last week marked the beginning of the MLB season and what has come to be a national holiday.
However, collegiate baseball has been in the swing of things for weeks now, and continued this past weekend as the Villanova baseball team traveled to South Bend, Ind.for a three-game series against the No. 20 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The Wildcats lost the first game by a score of 4-3 in 11 innings and the second by a score of 11-8, and won the third 10-6.
In the first game of the series, ’Nova sent junior pitcher Pat Young out to the mound to hopefully start the game and the weekend out right. Young offered a quality performance, giving up just three runs on six hits in 6.1 innings of work. The Wildcats were also led by senior shortstop Tyler Sciacca’s three walks and two hits.
Thanks to the big pitching from Young and later from senior reliever Matt Longfield, the Wildcats were able to hang around, tacking on a run in the top of the sixth inning to cut the Notre Dame lead to two.
As the game of baseball often goes, the Wildcats responded to their defensive prowess with a rally in their ensuing at-bats, as a two-run double off the bat of junior catcher John Cialone tied up the game at 3-3 in the top of the eighth inning.
Neither team scored in the remainder of regulation play so the game went to extra innings.
The game resumed its pitchers’ duel in the extra innings, as Villanova junior reliever Chris Haggarty and Notre Dame junior reliever Dan Slania kept each other’s team off the board through the first two innings.
However, in the bottom of the eleventh, the Fighting Irish finally got to Haggarty. A leadoff single followed by a stolen base and then an RBI base hit sealed the 4-3 victory for the Fighting Irish.
Nonetheless, this was a promising game for the struggling Wildcats against a nationally-ranked team.
The next day was almost the total opposite as far as style-of-play goes, as both teams were able to light up the scoreboard.
The Villanova lineup had 12 hits on the day, led by senior left fielder Steve Schrenk’s three hits. Freshman shortstop Eric Lowe and John Cialone’s also added two hits each.
’Nova started out strongly, as they answered Notre Dame’s 3-0 lead with six runs over the course of three innings to take the lead at 6-4.
This rally was started off by freshman first baseman Max Beermann’s first ever collegiate home run, a one-run shot to cut the lead to 3-1 in the top of the fourth inning.
In the fifth, Sciacca and Shrenk each singled and eventually came home to score in what would end up being a three-run inning for the Wildcats which gave them the lead 4-3.
Villanova tacked on two more in the sixth and they took the lead 6-4.
However, Notre Dame would gain control for good in the bottom of the sixth as they scored five runs, including a grand slam from junior first baseman Trey Mancini.
Each team would go on to score again, but the outcome did not change and Notre Dame held on for their second win of the series 11-8.
On Sunday, Villanova was looking to finally breakthrough in Big East Conference play with their first win.
The Wildcats had played well all weekend but were unable to notch a win, until Sunday afternoon.
Sophomore pitcher Josh Harris was able to keep the Wildcats ahead throughout the game, throwing eight innings of quality work and leading them to a 10-6 victory.
Although he gave up five runs on the day, two of those came in the ninth inning when the outcome was not really in doubt.
It was a balanced day at the plate for the Wildcats. Seven players recorded hits for the day.
Eric Lowe led the way with two hits and two RBIs. Junior outfielder Connor Jones also had four RBIs.
The scoring came in bunches on Sunday, with nine of the Villanova runs coming in two innings: Four in the second and five in the seventh.
With the score 10-4 heading into the ninth inning, Notre Dame managed to make things interesting by scoring two runs.
Fortunately, Chris Haggarty yet again performed well out of the bullpen, securing ’Nova’s first Big East win this season and their first ever at Notre Dame’s Frank Eck Stadium.
With the win, the Wildcats move to 9-21 overall and 1-5 in Big East play and Notre Dame drops to 19-10 overall and 4-5 in Big East play.