BOCA RATON, Fla. (March 10, 2012) – A big fourth inning and two strong pitching performances helped Rutgers University baseball even the series at Florida Atlantic University, winning 6-3 on Saturday at FAU Stadium. The victory snapped RU’s four-game losing streak.
Junior Rob Smorol (Clark, N.J.) earned the win for the Scarlet Knights (4-7) with seven strikeouts in 5.2 innings on the mound, allowing six hits, one walk and one earned run to even his record at 2-2. The lefty had three 1-2-3 innings and threw 103 pitches in the start. Classmate Tyler Gebler (Toms River, N.J.) helped Smorol escape a jam in the sixth and pitched the final 3.1 innings to earn his first save of the season.
After being shut down by FAU (10-6) starter Bo Logan through three and trailing 1-0, the Scarlet Knights exploded for five runs on three hits and two errors in the fourth inning. Sophomore Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.) led off the frame with a triple to right-center, the first hit of the game for RU. Junior Jeff Melillo (Annandale, N.J.) knocked him in immediately with an RBI single to rightfield to tie the score at one. The rally continued when junior Charlie Law (Mainland, N.J.) drew a walk to setup sophomore Ross Costello (Egg Harbor Township, N.J.), who initially attempted to bunt in his at bat. However, on the second pitch the third baseman split the gap in left-center to drive in both Melillo and Law. Freshman Vinny Zarrillo (Forked River, N.J.) next laid down a bunt that was thrown away into rightfield, going for a sacrifice bunt and an error to score Costello. Zarrillo ended up scoring when FAU dropped the ball attempting to tag him at third base on a stolen base try. Once again, the ball ended up in the outfield.
It was the second inning of five or more runs for Rutgers this season. RU went for five runs in the fifth inning at Old Dominion on Feb. 25.
The Owls inched back with an RBI double by Kyle Newton in the sixth that also setup runners on second and third with one outs. Smorol bounced back with his seventh punchout of the game to prevent a run from scoring on an out. With a right-handed hitter due up, head coach Fred Hill called for Gebler out of the bullpen to alleviate the situation. The righty did so, inducing a weak grounder to second base to end the threat and keep RU in the lead, 5-2.
Gebler, who earned All-America status as a closer in 2010, picked up his 13th career save, tying him with Chris Lillis (2003-07) for the third-most in program history. The right-hander was last used in relief on May 29, 2010 versus Connecticut at the BIG EAST Championships and last earned a save versus the Huskies just two days prior.
The Scarlet Knights added an unearned run in the eighth on an error with two outs to score Costello. Law, Costello and sophomore Joe D’Annunzio (Scotch Plains, N.J.) all singled in the inning to setup the insurance run. FAU took that run back in the bottom of the inning with a double and two productive groundouts to set the final score. The Owls brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but Gebler closed the game out.
Law recorded the first three-hit game of his career batting cleanup as the designated hitter and Costello continued his hot hitting with two hits, two runs and two RBIs.
Logan (1-1) took the loss for the hosts, who allowed three unearned runs on the night to the benefit of Rutgers. Kevin Alexander pitched well in relief, logging six innings with zero earned runs surrendered and six strikeouts.
The start of the game was delayed 95 minutes due to problematic weather in the Boca Raton area.
Rutgers will look to win the series in the finale Sunday with junior Rob Corsi (Oceanport, N.J.) (1-2) on the hill. The lefty has pitched into the seventh inning in his last two starts. The Owls have yet to declare a starter. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. at FAU Stadium.
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