MERION STATION, Pa. – Two runs in the first inning and a pair of insurance runs in the later innings were all the offense the Saint Joseph’s baseball team would need on Tuesday as the Hawks blanked Villanova, 4-0, in their home opener at Smithson Field.  Liam Bendo went 3-for-3 with a pair of walks and two runs batted in, while three pitchers combined for the shutout.

Saint Joseph’s (6-10) took the lead four batters into the bottom of the first and never gave it up.  Brendan Hueth singled and took second for the first of his three stolen bases on the day before a single by Bendo put runners on the corners with nobody out.  A wild pitch allowed Hueth to scamper home with the game’s first run before Dominic Cuoci singled home Bendo to double the lead.

The Hawks would threaten in the third and fourth, loading the bases with two outs in each frame, but reliever Mike Schwartz escaped both jams to keep Villanova (5-15) in the game.

Consecutive singles by Langston Livingston and Matt Cuppari to start the sixth inning put runners on the corners for Bendo, who singled home a run to extend the lead to 3-0.

Hueth then drew a two-out walk in the eighth before Bendo tripled to right center to bring home the game’s final run.

Matt Kennedy got the start for the Hawks and earned the win, allowing three hits and striking out three in three innings.  Jose Martinez fanned five to go with one hit in three innings, while Luke Zimmerman finished the game for his second save of the season, allowing one hit and striking out three.  For the second consecutive game, the Hawk pitching staff did not allow a walk.

Zach Lutner took the loss for the Wildcats, allowing two runs on three hits in two innings.

Saint Joseph’s will visit Bucknell on Wednesday in a game rescheduled from March 5.  Game time is set for 3:00 p.m.

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