At the crack of the bat, everyone had a feeling the towering fly ball would clear the fence, and it did: a grand slam.
Thanks to designated hitter Joey Greco’s sixth-inning bash, the Quakers (9-6) powered their way to a 12-5 win over their crosstown rival, the Villanova Wildcats (5-13), on Wednesday afternoon. In a game that featured some messy pitching, it was the offense that decided this one.
The Quakers broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the fourth after a Gary Tesch grounder knocked in sophomore Austin Bossart.
With a lead in hand, the Quakers’ defense got to work.
In the top of the sixth, pitcher Jeremy Witt escaped a bases-loaded jam with the help of a textbook barehand play by third baseman Mitch Montaldo on a bunt attempt that went a bit too far up the line.
It looked as if the Wildcats had finally solved the Quakers’ pitching staff in the sixth, drawing walks in patient at-bats, which ultimately led to three runs in the top half of the inning and a 5-3 Nova lead.
With their backs against the walls in an inning that did not look like it would lead to much, the Quakers constructed a huge two-out rally in the bottom half. After a gutsy at-bat, second baseman Mike Vilardo drew a bases-loaded walk and keep the inning alive.
Then Greco stepped to the plate.
The 6-foot-3 sophomore wasted no time in making his presence known, launching a first-pitch fastball over the left field fence for a grand slam to give the Quakers a lead that they would not surrender.
As soon as the ball cleared the wall, it seemed as if the Quakers had been revitalized as they erupted out of the dugout to congratulate their teammate.
“Vilardo had a great at bat before me to get a 3-2 walk,” Greco said. “I was just sitting first pitch fastball after [Villanova pitcher Matt Meurer] walked a big run in, and I got it.”
Once again, the Quakers demonstrated their strong hitting with runners in scoring position, something coach John Cole has been emphasizing to his team this year.
“Probably the best thing we’ve done this year was RISP, runners in scoring position,” Cole said. “We work on it, we chart it, we preach it.”
The Red and Blue tacked on a couple of insurance runs in each of the next two innings to gain a commanding 12-5 lead over the Wildcats before sophomore closer Ronnie Glenn shut the door in the ninth.
Even though the final pitching numbers for the Quakers may not have been pretty — five runs allowed on nine hits and seven walks — the pitching staff once again bent but didn’t break. Sophomore Stephen Silvestri earned his first win of the year along the way.
But it was the Quakers’ offense that came up big in the end, with seven players recording multiple hits on the day.
“Whenever we play Villanova, we love to beat them because it’s a hometown rival,” Greco said. “You’ve got to just love to pound up on Villanova.”
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