April 9, 2010


Nine Innings with Matt Szczur

By Phil Stanton

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder


Villanova won 17 of its first 20 games this season. The Wildcats are 8-3 at home and won their opening Big East series against Cincinnati. Villanova travels to Connecticut this weekend for a three-game Big East set.


The top hitter for Villanova is junior Matt Szczur, who is batting .452 in 23games. He has six doubles, two triples, one homer, 19 RBI and 28 runs. Szczur is 9 for 12 in stolen base attempts. The outfielder and catcher has walked 10 times with just six strikeouts.


The Wildcats were 22-28 a season ago, including 6-20 in the Big East. Villanova had a team batting average of .282 and a team ERA of 6.15. In 2010, the Wildcats are hitting .320. The pitching staff has an ERA of 3.67, with 75 walks and 172 strikeouts in 230.2 innings.


After receiving a medical redshirt in 2008, Szczur hit .346 (65 for 188) in 48 games a season ago with 45 runs and 24 RBI. He had 10 doubles, two triples, one home run and an on-base percentage of .438. Szczur stole 18 bases in 25 attempts. He had 27 walks and 23 strikeouts in 227 plate appearances.


Szczur was also an All-American on the football field this past fall as Villanova won the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) national championship. Szczur was Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Player of the Year and Special Teams Player of the Year. The 5’11 wide receiver was the only Division I player (FBS or FCS) in the nation to record a touchdown as a rusher, receiver, passer and kick returner. For his career, Szczur has 1,245 receiving yards with eight touchdowns, 1,435 rushing yards with 13 TDs and 5 of 6 passing for 35 yards and three touchdowns. He also has two career kickoff returns for scores and averages 27.5 yards per return.


Szczur recently took time from his busy schedule to answer our questions.


First Inning – What is the biggest factor to the strong start for the Wildcats?

Our pitching has probably been the biggest thing so far. We were sixth in the country in ERA for a while. At the plate we are just trying to scrap on the bases and at the plate. Our style is to scrap on the bases and get one or two runs an inning and then keep that going for all nine innings.


Second Inning – What are the team expectations after winning the opening Big East series with Cincinnati?

Our expectation every weekend is to win a series any way we can. It starts with trying to win a game on Friday and then trying to win a game on Saturday and Sunday. Day to day our approach is to take it one game at a time, but each weekend we are trying to win a series.


Third Inning – What has been the key to your success at the plate?

I give a lot of credit to [hitting coach] Dave Miller because the team as a whole is having a lot of success at the plate. It isn’t just me. Justin Bencsko has been hitting awesome the whole season and David Koczirka is hitting well right now. Really the whole team offensively has done really well. For me, I just want to try to be the best hitter that I can. Coach Miller has worked with the team to stay back on every pitch, whether we see fastballs or off-speed stuff, not to lunge for the ball but to stay back and hit more line drives or doubles and triples than just singles. Last year we were slapping the ball for hits a lot more.


Fourth Inning – You have 10 walks and only six strikeouts in 104 at-bats. How does your approach at the plate give you a good walk-to-strikeout ratio?

My hand-eye coordination is pretty good. If you look at the numbers, I don’t have a lot of walks either. I try to look for a pitch to drive and get a hit every at-bat. I don’t really look for a walk. 


Fifth Inning – You can play either in the outfield or behind the plate. Which spot do you prefer?

As long as I am in the game, the position I’m playing doesn’t matter to me between playing outfield or catching.


Sixth Inning – Being a member of the Villanova football team, were you able to participate in fall baseball practice at all?

I didn’t do anything baseball-related during the fall.


Seventh Inning – Will you be involved in spring football practice?

I am not taking part in spring practices for football. The only thing I am doing is lifting during the week.


Eighth Inning – Can you describe the feeling of winning a national championship in football?

I really can’t describe the feeling of winning a national championship. It is college football at the FCS level but a national championship is a national championship at any level. It is really great playing with all the guys on the team and it was hard for me to leave them for baseball in the spring. It was awesome to win the championship. I really can’t describe it.


Ninth Inning – You were the only Division I player this past fall to score a touchdown as a rusher, receiver, passer and kick returner. Which way is the most exciting for you?

I would say a kickoff return is the most exciting way to score a touchdown just because it is a score for the special teams.


(photos courtesy of Villanova Media Relations Office)