Posted: April 7, 2009
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – The Mountain Hawks were ousted from the Liberty Bell Classic on Tuesday with an 8-1 loss to Villanova at the baseball field on Goodman Campus. The Lehigh offense struggled to find success against Kyle Helisek on a crisp day in Bethlehem, as the Villanova starter allowed just six hits and one run to pick up the complete-game victory. Freshman righty Dan Ciccone took the loss for the Mountain Hawks, going 3.0 innings and giving up four runs.
“We gave them a few too many opportunities,” Lehigh head coach Sean Leary said. “Their pitcher did a better job of throwing strikes, and that was the difference.”
With the loss, Lehigh falls to 8-24-1 on the season, while Villanova improves to 15-15. Villanova advances to the Liberty Bell Classic championship game, which will be played at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia on April 15.
The Lehigh pitchers combined to throw seven walks in the nine innings of work. Ciccone walked three in his three innings of work, and Jordan Warncke walked three in 2.1 innings. On the other side, Helisek did not walk a single batter for Villanova over his nine innings.
“We stress to our guys that we need to continue to trust our stuff and our defense,” Leary said. “The guys today were trying to be a little too fine, but overall, I think we’ve improved in that area as the year has gone on.”
Villanova struck first with a three-run top of the first inning. Ciccone retired the first two batters quickly, seemingly settling into an early rhythm. However, Ciccone’s control failed him on the next two batters as he walked one and hit another, setting the table for Joe Cotter’s three-run blast that put the Wildcats on the board.
The Wildcats added a fourth run in the top of the third inning, when David Koczirka laid down a sacrifice bunt to score Wes Borden from third. One inning later, the Wildcats extended the lead to five runs on a Matt McFolling RBI double.
Lehigh fought back in the bottom of the fifth inning when the bats finally woke up against Helisek. The Villanova starter retired the first 10 Lehigh batters, but Lehigh got to him in the fifth with back-to-back doubles to start off the inning. Jim McConlogue hooked a double down the left field line and Ryan Gajdos ripped one over Cotter’s head in center field to drive in Lehigh’s first run of the game and cut the lead to 5-1.
But in the top of the sixth the Wildcats put the game away for good with a three-run inning to gain the necessary insurance for a comfortable win. The Villanova running game sparked the offense in the sixth, stealing three bases and putting pressure on the Lehigh defense and pitching staff.
Lehigh returns to action on Saturday when the Mountain Hawks travel a short distance down the road to Easton to take on archrival Lafayette in a pair of Patriot League doubleheaders. First pitch on Saturday is scheduled for noon.
“We wanted to make sure guys got work today, but we also wanted to make sure we were ready for the weekend,” Leary said. “Not only is it a big rivalry, but it’s a big head-to-head weekend for us in the league standings.”