PISCATAWAY, N.J. (April 14, 2012) – Behind a strong pitching performance from junior Rob Smorol (Clark, N.J.) and a five-run first inning, head coach Fred Hill earned his 900th win at Rutgers University as the Scarlet Knights defeated West Virginia University, 8-4, on Saturday at Bainton Field. The victory clinched a series win over the Mountaineers and put RU three games over .500 for the first time this season.
Hill, who is in his 29th season at the helm of the program, is 14th amongst active NCAA baseball head coaches in terms of victories with 1,048 overall in 36 seasons as a collegiate leader.
Smorol (5-2) recorded his team-leading fifth win of the year with three earned runs allowed in seven innings on the mound. The left-hander scattered nine hits and struck out four.
Sophomore Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.) and junior Jeff Melillo (Annandale, N.J.) each notched two hits to lead the offensive attack. Favatella has now reached base in 24-straight games, while Melillo extended his hitting streak to 13 contests with his second home run of the season in the fourth inning.
After the Mountaineers (14-22, 3-8 BIG EAST) scored one in the top of the first, Rutgers (18-15, 6-5 BIG EAST) responded with five runs in its first at bat of the game. Sophomore Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) led off with a single and moved up to third on a double by Favatella. Following a popout, junior Patrick Kivlehan (West Nyack, N.Y.) put the ball in play for an RBI for the first run of the frame, reaching on an error. Favatella scored one batter later when junior Steve Zavala (Randolph, N.J.) laced a single through the right side. Junior Charlie Law (Mainland, N.J.) had the big hit in the rally, crushing a two-run double to the wall in center. The designated hitter plated the final run of the inning when O’Grady walked with the bases loaded to chase WVU starter Marshall Thompson.
Thompson (3-5) suffered the loss for West Virginia, having only registered two outs. Reliever Austin Pressly worked 6.1 innings out of the bullpen to keep the visitors within striking distance.
WVU cut the lead to two in the fourth, but the Scarlet Knights tallied single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth to take an 8-3 advantage. Melillo hit a towering shot that landed amongst the cars beyond the wall in left for his first long ball since February 19 at Miami. In the fifth, sophomore Joe D’Annunzio (Scotch Plains, N.J.) used his speed to advance from first to third on a sacrifice bunt by classmate Pat Sweeney (Sparta, N.J.), and came all the way around on an errant throw.
RU scored its eighth run on an RBI groundout by Zavala after Kivlehan crushed a triple to the gap in left-center.
Senior Willie Beard (Spotswood, N.J.) closed the game out with two innings pitched, surrendering one unearned run in the ninth. The right-hander leads the staff with 15 appearances in 2012.
The Scarlet Knights will look to earn their first conference sweep since March 26-28, 2010 at Georgetown in the series finale against the Mountaineers on Sunday at 1 p.m. Senior Ryan Fasano (Stony Point, N.Y.) will pitch for Rutgers.
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