NORFOLK, Va. (February 24, 2012) – Behind a four-run seventh inning and an effective relief outing from senior Willie Beard (Spotswood, N.J.), Rutgers University baseball earned its first win of the season in come-from-behind fashion, 8-6, over Old Dominion University on Friday at Bud Metheny Baseball Complex. Junior catcher Jeff Melillo (Annandale, N.J.) led the 15-hit offensive attack with four hits and a walk in five plate appearances.
Trailing 6-3 in the top of the seventh, Rutgers put together its best rally of the early season. Sophomore Pat Sweeney (Sparta, N.J.) worked a walk on a full count pitch to lead off, advancing to second on a wild pitch. Classmate Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) grounded a single through the right side to bring him in immediately. After a doubleplay quelled the rally, sophomore Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.) singled to right to extend his hitting streak to 15 games. Melillo worked another walk to set up junior Steve Zavala (Randolph, N.J.) with two on and two outs. After falling behind in the count, the rightfielder stroked a double down the left field line to tie the score at six. The Scarlet Knights were not done as sophomore Ross Costello (Egg Harbor Township, N.J.) hit a ball up the middle for an infield single, and an errant throw allowed Zavala to score, giving RU a 7-6 advantage.
In addition to Melillo’s career-high four hits, O’Grady and junior Bill Hoermann (Toms River, N.J.) each had three hits, while Costello recorded his first multi-hit game with two knocks. The Scarlet Knights came through with clutch hits throughout the day, recording six runs with two outs.
Beard (1-0) earned his ninth career win with 3.1 innings of work, allowing only one single to finish the game. Dean Ali (0-1) took the loss for ODU.
Junior designated hitter Charlie Law (Mainland, N.J.) helped put Rutgers on the board first with a leadoff double to start the third inning in his first at bat of the season. After sophomore Pat Sweeney (Sparta, N.J.) bunted him over to third, O’Grady collected his fourth RBI of the season on a groundout.
The Scarlet Knights put up two more runs in the fourth, started by a walk and double from Favatella and Melillo, respectively. ODU starter Phil McCarthy struck out the next two, but a clutch two-out single by Hoermann pushed Favatella and Melillo across the plate, giving RU an early 3-0 lead.
However, Old Dominion responded in the bottom of the inning with a pair of two-out singles that were followed by a three-run home run by Brent Frazier. In a similar fashion one inning later, the Monarchs collected a single with two down and Joey Burney crushed a long ball to give the home team a 5-3 lead through five frames.
The hosts tacked on another run in the sixth inning on a pair of doubles to chase RU starter Tyler Gebler (Toms River, N.J.) from the game. Beard escaped further trouble by picking off the player on first with runners on the corners to end the sixth with ODU leading 6-3. That would lead to the big seventh inning for Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights added an insurance run in the ninth on Hoermann’s third RBI of the day, knocking in Melillo with a two-out single to centerfield.
Gebler went 5.2 innings with five strikeouts, allowing 11 hits and six earned runs in his first start of the season. McCarthy struck out five for ODU in five innings with three runs charged to his record as both starters received no decisions.
Rutgers committed zero errors on defense, while Melillo caught one runner stealing in addition to picking another off first base.
The Scarlet Knights will look to win the series on Saturday as junior Rob Smorol (Clark, N.J.) will toe the rubber against Ben Tomchick of ODU. First pitch from Bud Metheny Baseball Complex is set for 2 p.m.
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