09 Dec 2021 | 09:55 | Baseball
OMAHA, Neb.—Villanova (12-3, 0-1 BIG EAST) played against a conference opponent for the first time in 691 days and saw its 12-game winning streak come to an end in a 9-2 loss to Creighton (7-7, 1-0 BIG EAST) at TD Ameritrade Park in the opener of a three-game series on Friday night. Senior first baseman Ryan Toohers (Florham Park, N.J.) delivered the two Wildcats runs with a two-run home run in the eighth inning and freshman relief pitcher Devin Rivera (Valley Cottage, N.Y.) tossed 3 1/3 scoreless innings of relief in his third appearance of the season.
Toohers continued his hot hitting with an opposite field home run that carried over the left-center field fence with two outs in the top of the eighth. Senior center fielder Chris Rotondo (Redding, Conn.) led off that inning with a single through the left side after an eight-pitch plate appearance and was still at first base with two away when Toohers drove a 1-1 pitch for his second home run of the year. He came into the night having gone 10-for-13 (.769) over his past three games.
Senior second baseman Pat O’Neill (Eagleville, Pa.) and junior shortstop Dylan McNary (Jefferson, Mass.) were each on base twice for Villanova, which was limited to six hits on the evening. McNary doubled and was hit by a pitch, while O’Neill had a single and drew a walk. Graduate student Nick Oar (Pleasant Hill, Calif.) also doubled as the Wildcats had three extra-base hits among their offensive production.
Only three of the nine runs scored by Creighton were earned against the ledger of junior starting pitcher Gordon Graceffo (Cranford, N.J.) who pitched better than his final line indicated. Graceffo (3-1, 1.78 ERA) struck out seven over 4 2/3 innings while allowing 10 hits and issuing two walks. It is the fourth consecutive start that he has had seven strikeouts or more.
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the third inning when the Bluejays set the table with a leadoff walk and a single which put runners at first and second with nobody out. Graceffo took a step towards limiting the damage in the inning by striking out number three hitter Parker Upton, but Alan Roden doubled to right to drive in both runners for a 2-0 advantage. After Ryan Mantle grounded out for the second out, a sinking liner to left off the bat of Sterling Hayes fell in for another double which allowed the third run of the inning to score.
A leadoff single and a sacrifice bunt in the home half of the fourth inning should have resulted in a runner at second with one away, but a throwing error on the bunt attempt put runners at second and third with no outs. After an infield single, another sacrifice bunt and a fielder’s choice to second, the inning would have been over were it not for the error earlier in the frame. Creighton instead went on to score five runs in the inning however, with the big hit a three-run double by Hayes down the left field line. Jared Wegner singled to lead off the fifth inning, stole second and scored on a throwing error two batters later.
Rivera entered the game with a runner at second and two outs in the fifth inning. He got Roden to ground out to second to end the inning, then worked scoreless frames in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Rivera struck out two batters in the sixth inning, worked around a two-out single in the seventh with a strikeout and two ground balls that inning and finished off his night with a strong eighth inning.
The series continues on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. Eastern time (1 p.m. Central time).