by Ryan Irwin
Villanova wasn’t able to capitalize on strong starting pitching in the weekend series against the Connecticut Huskies in Plymouth meeting.
Instead, the team stumbled on defense all weekend long, resulting in a series sweep against a Wildcat team that has struggled so far this season.
In the first game of the series on Friday, junior right-handed pitcher Pat Young tossed 6 2/3 shutout innings while notching a sixth straight quality start. The game was scoreless for seven innings as UConn’s own starter, sophomore Carson Cross, threw just as impressively as Young.
It wasn’t until the top of the eighth inning that Villanova’s defense would betray Young’s effort. With one out in the eighth, Connecticut’s junior outfielder Billy Ferriter hit a ball to first base for an infield hit.
After a walk and a double steal, freshman infielder Vinny Siena grounded to shortstop Eric Lowe who then threw wide of home plate, allowing both runners to score on the error. After taking second on the error, Siena eventually scored on a single from sophomore outfielder Eric Yavarone, the third unearned run of the game.
In the ninth inning, Connecticut would add another unearned run when a throwing error by freshman third baseman Kevin Jewitt allowed a Husky base runner to reach scoring position. He would then score on a double by senior infielder LJ Mazzilli.
Going into the bottom of the ninth, the ’Cats were down 4-0. The inning had three runs,on no hits, with lots of wild pitching.
Connecticut reliever Ryan Moore only registered one out in the five batters he faced, walking three consecutive batters to load the bases. A walk from senior second baseman Tyler Sciacca and sophomore third baseman Brandon Carr scored two runs, and freshman first baseman Max Beermann was hit by a pitch to make the game 4-3.
Sophomore third baseman B.J. Bochicchio then was called on to pinch hit. He drove a pitch to deep right field that the right fielder made a play on for the final out.
In the second game of the series on Saturday, Villanova’s senior pitcher Stephen Ostapeck tallied a career high nine strikeouts while allowing 3 runs, only one of which was earned, in 7 1/3 innings pitched.
The two unearned runs came in the second inning when freshman designated hitter Bryan Daniello reached on an error. A few passed balls later, the Huskies had two runs, making it six straight unearned runs for Connecticut.
Ostapeck’s only earned run came when he was out of the game. After a leadoff single and a sacrifice bunt in the top of the eighth inning, Ostapeck was pulled from the game.
Three straight singles off of senior reliever Kevin MacLachlan led to two runs and the final score of 4-1.
Villanova’s only run came in the first inning when junior catcher John Cialone notched an RBI infield single.
Later in the inning, the Wildcats had runners at second and third with one out, but a strikeout and flyout to center kept the ’Cats from doing any more damage.
Villanova had many opportunities to add to the scoreboard, but haven’t been able to cash in. Over the first two games of the series, the Wildcats stranded 22 base runners.
Sciacca’s double, his 39th career double, tied him for 10th all time in Wildcat history.
Connecticut sought to finish the sweep on Sunday afternoon. Connecticut scored four runs in the top of the ninth to seal the victory for the Huskies 9-4.
The Wildcats struck first in the bottom of the second inning. Using textbook station-to-station baseball, Carr scored on an RBI single by Beermann.
Heading into the sixth inning, the score was knotted at two a piece. After allowing two straight baserunners, sophomore pitcher Josh Harris seemed to be escaping the jam after striking out the next two batters.
After a pitching change, senior outfielder Billy Ferriter singled through the right side, scoring two. A Husky double later in the inning would be the third run, a 5-2 advantage over the ’Cats.
Villanova would keep the game close, however. Junior right fielder Connor Jones clubbed a two run homer in the bottom of the seventh to close the gap, 5-4.
It was only in the ninth inning that the Huskies would put the game out of reach. After a couple of singles and some wild pitches, Connecticut had scored four runs.
On Tuesday, the Wildcats played the championship game of the Liberty Bell Classic at Citizens Bank Park.
“That experience will stay with these guys their whole career,” said head coach Joe Godri.
Next weekend the Wildcats will be travelling to Cincinnati, Ohio, to continue the Big East schedule. Villanova is currently 1-8 in Big East play, and 9-25 overall.