Villanova baseball opened its 2020 season with a three-game series against perennial powerhouse Arizona State in Phoenix. The ‘Cats lost two of three against the Sun Devils but surprised many with their performance. They start the season with a record of 1-2.
Opening day of the season saw junior righthander Jimmy Kingsbury take the mound. Kingsbury and the Arizona State pitcher matched each other in the first three innings, both putting up scoreless frames. The tie was broken in the fourth, when ASU’s Spencer Torkelson, who many experts project to be taken first overall in the MLB draft this June, hit a solo home run to give the Sun Devils a 1-0 lead.
‘Nova would answer in the fifth inning, when senior Tim Lilly hit a single and scored sophomore Will Reiner. The Sun Devils would rally off Kingsbury in the seventh, when three runs came around to score and gave them a 4-1 lead. Kingsbury ended his day with an impressive line of 6.1 innings pitched, giving up four runs on five hits and striking out five. The Wildcats would get runners on base in the following innings, but failed to capitalize, losing the season opener 4-1.
Game two saw sophomore Gordon Graceffo take the hill. Graceffo provided the Wildcats with a quality start, 5.1 innings and allowing just one run on two hits. In the sixth inning, Sam Margulis and Chris Rotondo reached base, and RBI’s from Nick LoRusso and Ryan Toohers gave the Wildcats a 2-0 lead. Freshman southpaw Danny Wilkinson came to relieve Graceffo in the sixth, making his collegiate debut. Wilkinson worked out of multiple jams and entered the ninth clinging to their one run lead. Wilkinson was able to strike out the final Sun Devil batter and secured the dramatic win. He went 3.2 innings, allowing just one hit and striking out five.
The two teams faced off in the rubber match on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Arizona. Freshman Brandon Siegenthaler made his debut, going two innings and giving up three runs on three hits. He was followed by another freshman, this time Cole Vanderslice. He went four innings, striking out four while not allowing any runs. ‘Nova cut its deficit in half in the fourth inning, thanks to a double from Tooheers, who would later score on an error. In the seventh, sophomore Dylan McNary hit a two-run home run to tie the game up at four. Arizona State pushed another run across in the seventh on a passed ball, taking a lead that would not be relinquished. ‘Nova had a chance to rally in the ninth, but an unlucky double play ball ended the rally.
Despite losing two of three, the ‘Cats impressed many by playing the number three team in the country so closely. After a rough last season, they look like a team that can be competitive in the Big East. The ‘Cats will look to carry their momentum to North Carolina at a tournament hosted by Campbell University.