LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Pat Young pitched into the ninth inning and allowed just five hits and one earned run as Villanova (15-13, 2-3 Big East) evened its three-game series against No. 15 Louisville (19-8, 4-1 Big East) at one game apiece with a 5-2 victory at Jim Patterson Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Young (4-3, 3.60 ERA) stayed away from trouble against the top offensive team in the Big East by throwing first-pitch strikes to 25 of the 34 batters he faced. He threw nearly two-thirds of his pitches for strikes overall and while he was in the game the Cardinals had a mere five at bats with runners in scoring position. Louisville went 1-for-5 in those attempts against Young and 2-for-15 (.133) with runners on base while Young was in the game.
In the bottom of the ninth inning Young hit Zak Wasserman with a pitch and the Wildcats turned to Julian Diaz to close out the game. Diaz allowed a single to the first batter he faced and the Cardinals had runners at the corners with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth before Diaz easily retired the next three hitters to earn his first save of the season.
One day after Villanova managed just one hit in a 12-1 loss on Friday night the Wildcats offense appeared to be back in its usual form in Saturday’s contest. Villanova had 10 hits and eight of the nine batters in the Wildcats starting lineup reached base safely at least once.
Kevin Wager went 3-for-5 with two runs scored in the victory and Matt Fleishman added two hits with one run scored and one run batted in. Steve Schrenk also had a good day with a single, two walks, two runs scored and a sacrifice fly.
Villanova scored single runs in the top of the second and third innings to take a 2-0 lead and then pulled away from a 2-1 advantage with three runs in the top of the fifth. Louisville scored the final run of the game on a two-out single in the bottom of the eighth inning but Young struck out his namesake Ty Young to end the inning with the lead still comfortably intact.
Typical offense for the Wildcats led to the first run of the game after Schrenk drew a leadoff walk to start the top of the second inning. Following the walk three consecutive batters all laid down successful bunts. Adam Nelson bunted for a single and Brandon Carr sacrificed the runners up to second and third base. Paul Rambaud then executed a successful safety squeeze and bunted for a single which brought in Schrenk and gave Villanova a 1-0 lead.
In the top of the third inning the Wildcats loaded the bases with nobody out when Wager and Fleishman led off with back-to-back singles and Connor Jones was safe at first when a sacrifice bunt was misplayed. Cardinals starting pitcher Jeff Thompson (5-1, 4.35 ERA) struck out Tyler Sciacca to give himself a chance to get out of the inning but Schrenk followed with a sacrifice fly to center that allowed Wager to score.
Wager and Fleishman hit back-to-back triples on the first two pitches that Thompson threw in the top of the fifth inning. Wager opened the inning with a triple to right-center field and Fleishman hit the very next pitch for an RBI triple to right. Thompson retired the next two batters but Schrenk walked to extend the inning, Nelson reached on an error which allowed Fleishman to score and Carr delivered an RBI single to bring in the final Villanova run.
The base hit by Carr chased Thompson, who allowed eight hits and five runs (two earned) in 4.2 innings, while walking two and striking out five. Two relievers for Louisville combined to pitch the final 4.1 innings and allow just two additional hits.
Young retired six of the first seven batters he faced through the first two innings and then made big pitches to preserve the Wildcats lead in the bottom of the third and fourth innings. In the bottom of the third Cameron O’Brien was a third base with one out but Young induced a ground ball to third base and Wager threw O’Brien out at the plate on a fielder’s choice. In the bottom of the fourth inning Jeff Gardner reached third with one out and Zach Lucas drove him in with a groundout to short for the second out before Young got another groundout to end the inning.