The Villanova Baseball team, which was picked to finish sixth place in the Big East in the Preseason Coaches’ Poll, played its first series of the season on the road against the 2-2 Radford Highlanders on Saturday and Sunday. The two game series did not go well for the ‘Cats, as they were swept, 5-3 and 6-1, starting the season off 0-2.
In their first game of the year, the ‘Cats came out hot, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning. The first run was knocked in with a single from sophomore Jack O’Reilly on a 3-2 pitch with one out, scoring Chris Rotondo from third. In the Wildcats’ next at-bat, graduate student Nick Oar hit a double on the first pitch, scoring junior Nick Lorusso from second.
In the bottom of the first, with junior starting pitcher preseason all-Big East team member Gordon Graceffo on the mound, Radford responded by scoring one run and cutting Villanova’s lead to 2-1. Senior Pat O’Neill led off the top of the second with a triple and was brought home with a sac fly from junior Will Reiner in the next at-bat for the ‘Cats, giving them a 3-1 lead.
Both teams failed to score for the next four innings, but in the bottom of the sixth, Radford chipped at Villanova’s lead with a two-out single, making it a 3-2 game. Sophomore Danny Wilkinson came in to replace Graceffo, who threw 103 pitches, at the start of the bottom of the eighth inning. In the bottom of the eighth, Radford scored three runs on three hits, two walks and an error, putting the ‘Cats in a 5-3 hole with just three outs remaining.
In the top of the eight with two outs, Reiner walked, bringing the tying run, Rotondo, to the plate. Rotondo grounded out to third, and the ‘Cats lost their season opener, 5-3.
Villanova had six hits (two doubles and one triple), drew three walks and struck out five Highlanders. Graceffo pitched seven innings, giving up two runs and striking out four, and Lorusso had one hit, one walk and scored one run.
In the bottom of the first in the final game of the series, Radford got on the board with a two-out one-run scoring triple off senior starting pitcher Jimmy Kingsbury and jumped out to a 1-0 lead over the Wildcats.
In the top of the third, the ‘Cats responded by tying the game at one, with sophomore Vance Anderson scoring on a wild pitch. However, that tie would not last long, as Radford scored in the bottom half of the third to take a 2-1 lead.
With graduate student Tyler Arella relieving Kingsbury, Radford hit a two-run home run in the fifth inning and another two-run home run in the sixth inning, giving the Highlanders a comfortable 6-1 lead. After Radford went up 6-1, the Wildcats had baserunners in every inning, but they could not bring any of them home, resulting in a 6-1 Villanova loss.
Villanova had four hits (two doubles), drew six walks and struck out 12 Highlanders. Senior Cameron Mathes pitched in the seventh and eighth innings, giving up only one hit while striking out four, and Vance Anderson had one hit and scored the Wildcats’ only run of the game.
The ‘Cats have their first home series of the year this weekend against Hofstra, which is 4-2 on the season. Hofstra lost its first game of the seasonwon four in a row, and split a doubleheader against La Salle. ‘Nova and Hofstra will play one game on Friday and then cap off the series with a doubleheader on Sunday.
Hofstra’s team leader in batting average at .400 is Preseason All-CAA team member Austin Gauthier. Gauthier leads the team in walks with 10 and leads the team in runs scored with seven. Brian Goulard leads the team in RBI’s with five, and Anthony D’Onofrio leads in stolen bases with four in four tries. Hofstra’s opponents are nine for nine on the year stealing bases and have a .130 team batting average.