Thursday, February 25, 2010

Preview: Villanova

Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010 • 10 a.m. - Villanova
St. Petersburg, Fla. - Progress Energy Park
IU - RHP Walker Stadler (1-0, 4.50) | VU - LHP Kyle Helisek (0-0, 0.00)
GameTracker | Live Audio | Live Video Webcast

Freshman Walker Stadler will take the mound and make his second career start in IU's second game of the Big Ten/Big East Challenge on Saturday. After a very strong debut in which he picked up his first career collegiate victory and propelled the Hoosiers to their first win on the young season, Stadler will be pitching to further solidify his status as a weekend starter for this team in 2010. He threw 6 strong innings last weekend at San Diego, and IU will need more of the same from the freshman right-hander this time around against a young Villanova squad.

Looking to improve upon a 2009 campaign that saw the Wildcats go 22-28 overall and finish last in Big East play with a 6-20 conference record, Villanova enters this weekend's Big Ten/Big East Challenge with a 3-0 record after taking three games at Norfolk State to open the season last weekend. The Wildcats are led by Coach Joe Godri, who is in his ninth season at the school and sports an overall record of 211-204-3 during that time. With 25 of 33 players on the roster in either their freshman or sophomore years of eligibility, Villanova was picked to finish 11th out of 12 teams in the preseason Big East coaches' poll.

The Wildcats are projected to throw left-hander Kyle Helisek against the Hoosiers on Saturday. The sophomore was 4-1 with a 5.55 ERA, 31 K, 17 BB and a .309 OBA in 58.1 innings pitched (including 8 starts) as a freshman last season. In a 7-3 win over Norfolk State last Saturday, Helisek threw 5 innings and yielded 1 unearned run on 3 hits while striking out 2 and walking none. Based on what little I know about him, it appears that Helisek is certainly not going to overpower anyone, but he seems to be a guy that will keep the ball in the zone and pitch to contact with the hope that he can put his defense in position to make plays behind him.

Offensively, the key returnees for Villanova include last year's leading hitter Matt Szczur (.346, 10 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 24 RBI, 18 SB in 188 at-bats last season) and David Koczirka (.340, 13 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 39 RBI in 162 at-bats), but Koczirka did not play last weekend at Norfolk State. Szczur was elected to the preseason all-Big East team as the DH by the conference coaches following a stellar freshman campaign. While it does not seem that Norfolk State was exactly a formidable opponent for the Wildcats (they outscored Norfolk State 30-6 over three games), based on last weekend's performances, the Hoosiers should watch out for Adam Nelson, who had 5 hits (4 of which were doubles) and 4 RBI in 11 at-bats for the series, and Justin Bencsko, who had 4 hits and 6 RBI in 9 at-bats last weekend.

Much like the Hoosiers (and maybe even more so), Villanova is a very young and inexperienced team that is expected to hang at the bottom of the pack in the Big East. This is definitely a very winnable game for the good guys.

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