PISCATAWAY, N.J. (April 13, 2012) – Down 2-1 entering the bottom of the ninth, Rutgers University baseball scored twice to come back and beat West Virginia University, 3-2, in the series opener on Friday at Bainton Field. Sophomore Pat Sweeney (Sparta, N.J.) came through with the tying single with one down, and classmate Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.) laced a game-winning hit with the bases loaded two batters later to give RU its fifth BIG EAST victory.
Rutgers improved to 17-15 with the win and 5-5 in the conference. It was the eighth come-from-behind victory of the year.
The winning rally started with one out when junior Bill Hoermann (Toms River, N.J.) worked a walk on a full count to chase WVU starter Corey Walter. Freshman Matt Ackerman (Sparta, N.J.) ran for Hoermann and advanced to second when sophomore Joe D’Annunzio (Scotch Plains, N.J.) drew a walk off closer Ryan Tezak. Sweeney followed with a clutch bloop single that found turf in left field, bringing home Ackerman to knot the score at two and moving D’Annunzio to third. The Mountaineers decided to intentionally walk sophomore Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) to load the bases. Favatella then lined a clean hit down the left field line two pitches into his at bat to score D’Annunzio and send the Scarlet Knights to victory.
It was the second walk-off hit of the season for the second baseman, as he hit a game-ending home run in the bottom of the ninth on April 3 against Princeton. He has reached base in 23-straight games.
Junior Dan O’Neill (Lake Hiawatha, N.J.) (1-2) earned the win, retiring two batters in the top of the ninth. Classmate Tyler Gebler (Toms River, N.J.) pitched a strong eight innings with two runs allowed and five strikeouts in his second home start of the season.
The Mountaineers (14-21, 3-7 BIG EAST) struck first on a two-out RBI single by Matt Frazer in the top of the first. Rutgers evened the score in the third when junior Patrick Kivlehan (West Nyack, N.Y.) brought in Favatella with a sacrifice fly to right field. The rally was setup when junior Jeff Melillo (Annandale, N.J.) executed a hit-and-run to perfection to send Favatella to third. The catcher now has a 12-game hitting streak.
The visitors retook the lead in the fourth on a Chris Rasky solo home run.
From there, each pitcher threw zeros on the scoreboard until the Scarlet Knights broke through in the bottom of the last. Gebler escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the eighth when Hoermann snared a liner at first and stepped on the bag to prevent further trouble.
Walter pitched an effective 8.1 innings for West Virginia, allowing two runs and six hits, with no base knocks surrendered after the third. Tezak (1-1) took the loss.
Game two of the series is set for Saturday at 1 p.m. Junior Rob Smorol (Clark, N.J.) will look to earn his second-straight win for RU, while fellow left-hander Marshall Thompson will get the ball for WVU. Fred Hill will look to win his 900th game at Rutgers.
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