By Matthew Ryan, Sports Talk Philly Contributor
Originally published in The Villanovan.
Last week, the ‘Cats played a three-game series on the road against St. Joe’s, which they swept, 8-7, 16-5 and 8-2. Nova has been on a tear ever since getting swept in its opening series, winning its last 12 games, giving it the longest winning streak since 1989.
Game one of the series on Thursday had freshman Devin Rivera on the mound for the ‘Cats, making this his first collegiate start.
In the bottom of the first, the Hawks got on the board with a sacrifice fly, giving them a 1-0 lead.
A two-out-double by senior Chris Rotondo in the top of the second gave the Wildcats a 2-1 lead. The ‘Cats extended their lead to 3-1 in the top of the third, thanks to an RBI triple by graduate student Ryan Toohers.
In the bottom of the fifth, with runners on first and third and two outs, senior Cameron Mathes came in to relieve Rivera. The first batter Mathes faced hit a three-run home run, giving the Hawks a 4-3 lead.
That lead for the Hawks didn’t last long, as in the top of the sixth, junior Will Reiner hit an RBI single, and Rotondo hit an RBI triple, giving the ‘Cats a 5-4 lead.
A sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth for the Hawks tied the game up at five, but bases-loaded walks in the top of the seventh by senior Pat O’Neill and junior Dylan McNary gave the ‘Cats a 7-5 lead.
A Toohers RBI single in the top of the eighth gave the Wildcats a much-needed insurance run, extending their lead to 8-5.
In the bottom of the ninth, sophomore Danny Wilkinson came in for the save. A double for the Hawks cut Nova’s lead to 8-6, and a bases-loaded walk with two outs made it a one-run game, but the ‘Cats hung on as the final batter for St. Joe’s flied out, giving Villanova the 8-7 win.
Game two of the series on Saturday was the first game of a doubleheader. Although the ‘Cats were on the road, they were considered the home team for this game because the home game they were supposed to have this series on Friday got cancelled. With ace junior Gordon Graceffo on the mound, the ‘Cats dominated.
The ‘Cats got the scoring going in the bottom of the second with Reiner hitting an RBI triple and sophomore Jack O’Reilly reaching on a fielder’s choice, which scored Reiner, giving the ‘Cats a 2-0 lead.
The bottom of the third was huge for the Wildcats. Sophomore Lucas Latrenta reached on a fielder's choice, bringing home a run, and a single by graduate student Nick Oar brought home another, putting the ‘Cats up 4-0. With two runners on, Rotondo hit a three-run home run, which gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead. An RBI single by Toohers, who led off the inning with a double, extended the Wildcats’ lead to 8-0.
The Hawks got on the board in the top of the fourth, scoring one run, and then cut into their deficit again in the top of the sixth, scoring one run and making it an 8-2 game.
An Oar RBI double in the bottom of the sixth and an O’Neill RBI double in the bottom of the seventh extended Villanova’s lead to 10-2.
In the bottom of the eighth, the ‘Cats kept the runs coming. Toohers hit a two-RBI single, and then McNary hit a grand slam, giving the ‘Cats a 16-2 lead.
St. Joe’s scored three runs in the top of the ninth, but the ‘Cats walked away from this game with an impressive 16-5 victory, their largest margin of victory all season.
The final game of the series and the second game of a doubleheader had Villanova as the away team and senior Jimmy Kingsbury on the mound.
The ‘Cats opened up the scoring in the top of the third with a three-run home run by Rotondo, giving the ‘Cats a 3-0 lead.
The Wildcats extended their lead to 4-0 in the top of the fifth with an RBI single by O’Neill.
St. Joe’s got on the board in the bottom of the sixth with a two-run double, cutting Nova’s lead to 4-2.
An RBI double by Toohers in the top of the seventh extended the ‘Cats' lead to 5-2.
In the top of the eighth, the ‘Cats blew this one open. Lorusso hit an RBI single, and Toohers got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, scoring a run. O’Neill hit a sacrifice fly, scoring another run and giving the ‘Cats an 8-2 lead which went on to be the final score as the Wildcats got the 3-0 series sweep.
The ‘Cats start Big East play with a four-game series that starts Friday against 6-7 Creighton, which hits .275, and its opponents hit .277.