PISCATAWAY, N.J. (April 6, 2011) – The Rutgers baseball team wrapped up its nine-game homestand in style as true freshman Nick Favatella (Washington Twp., N.J.) drove in four runs to guide the Scarlet Knights to a 5-4 victory over Columbia Wednesday afternoon at Bainton Field. The Scarlet Knights (11-16) broke a 4-4 tie as senior Russ Hopkins (Piscataway, N.J.) scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the eighth to down the Lions (11-12).
Favatella, who moved back to his regular position at second base with Pat Sweeney (Sparta, N.J.) back in the lineup, finished the day 2-for-3 with four RBI and one run scored, including his first career home run.
Columbia got a pair of singles and a double in the first inning to push across a pair of runs and stake the Lions out to an early 2-0 advantage.
Favatella erased that lead on one swing of the bat as the freshman followed a Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) single with a two-run home run to tie it up at 2-2. The true freshman took Columbia starter Tim Giel’s 1-2 offering over the left-field fence for his first collegiate home run.
Rutgers starter Ryan Fasano (Stony Point, N.Y.) rebounded after the first inning with three scoreless frames as the Scarlet Knights and Lions headed to the fifth inning knotted at 2-2.
Alex Ferrera opened the fifth with a bunt down the third-base line that was mishandled to put the leadoff man on for Columbia. He later came around to score on a triple to the gap in left-center field from Nick Cox. The Lions pushed across a second run in the frame on a groundout to open a 4-2 lead on the Scarlet Knights.
Sweeney earned a five-pitch walk to open the seventh. On the next play, O’Grady drilled a ball to the right side that was scooped up by the first baseman, who fired to second in an attempt to get the lead runner out. The throw was low, however, bouncing off the field turf as Sweeney slid into second, allowing both Sweeney and O’Grady to reach base safely on the play. Reliever Roger Aquino was called for a balk shortly after, allowing both runners to advance into scoring position with one out. The Scarlet Knights looked to take advantage of a strong scoring opportunity and Favatella delivered again for RU. The true freshman took Aquino’s 0-2 offering back up the middle to plate both Sweeney and O’Grady and tie the game back up at 4-4.
The Scarlet Knights went to their bullpen in the eighth with Fasano handing the ball over to Rob Corsi (Oceanport, N.J.) to open the inning. The sophomore worked a scoreless frame to set up the decisive eighth inning.
Hopkins was struck with a pitch to open the bottom half of the eighth and moved into scoring position thanks to a well-placed sacrifice bunt by Joe D’Annunzio (Scotch Plains, N.J.) that the freshman nearly beat out for a base hit. A pitching change for the Lions brought in Harrison Slutsky and the reliever attempted to pick off Hopkins at second but the throw was wild, allowing the Scarlet Knight to advance to third base. With two out in the frame, Slutsky delivered a ball in the dirt that got past the catcher and Hopkins raced home on the play to score what would-be the game-winning run on a wild pitch.
With the 5-4 lead, Corsi tamed the Lions in the ninth, punctuating the victory with a game-ending strikeout.
Corsi (2-1) picked up the win with two innings of hitless, shutout relief that included three strikeouts. Fasano scattered six hits over seven innings and allowed just two earned runs in the start for RU. Aquino (0-1) was tagged with the loss for Columbia after his run scored in the eighth. The Lions used five pitchers on the afternoon with no hurler working more than two innings.
Rutgers travels to Tampa, Fla. Thursday afternoon where the Scarlet Knights will open a three-game series at USF Friday at 7 p.m.