LOUISVILLE, Ky. (March 22, 2013) – The offense connected for five early runs and senior left-hander Rob Smorol (Clark, N.J.) pitched seven effective innings as Rutgers baseball took down No. 4 Louisville, 6-2, in its BIG EAST opener at Patterson Stadium Friday. It was the first win over a ranked team for the Scarlet Knights since downing No. 14 Stetson March 18, 2012.
RU improved to 7-10 overall and 1-0 in the BIG EAST, jumping to 4-1 on its current spring break road trip. UofL, ranked fourth in the Baseball America poll, dropped to 18-3 and 0-1, falling at home for the second time this season.
Smorol (2-1) was sharp on the mound to pick up his second win of the year and 19th of his career, moving him into a tie for sixth-most in school history. He allowed just six hits and two runs in the 122-pitch outing, working against a lineup that featured six left-handed bats. The senior made critical pitches when he had to, including escaping a bases-loaded jam up three runs against the top of the order in the seventh.
Junior Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.), sophomore Vinny Zarrillo (Forked River, N.J.) and junior Lou Clemente (Union, N.J.) all collected three hits in the game, as the offense clicked to the tune of 13 base knocks – the most Louisville had surrendered in a game this season. Junior Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) notched two hits as well.
RU sent an early message by jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning on four straight hits with one out. Favatella laced a double to left-center to start the rally, scoring right away on an RBI single to right field by O’Grady. After Zarrillo singled, Clemente roped an RBI single to left-center to plate O’Grady for the second run of the inning. It was the third time this season the Scarlet Knights scored in their first at bat.
Rutgers tacked on three more in the top of the third to go up 5-0 over the Cardinals. Favatella singled and O’Grady doubled to start it out, with Zarrillo beating out an infield single to shortstop to score Favatella and put runners on the corners with still no one out. Clemente then raked an RBI double to plate O’Grady for another run. The third run scored on a strikeout when the pitch went to the backstop and an errant throw to first scooted far enough away to allow Zarrillo to come home, unearned.
Nick Ratajczak came through with a two-out RBI single to put Louisville on the board in the sixth, as Smorol limited the damage by picking up three of his four strikeouts in the inning. Then UofL staged it biggest rally of the night in the seventh, but could only come away with one run. The first two hitters reached and moved up on a sacrifice bunt, with a single following to make it 5-2. After a stolen base put two in scoring position with one out, Smorol buckled down and induced a short fly out to center field for the second out. A walk loaded the bases to put on the tying run, but the veteran pitcher retired the side on fly out to end the threat with limited harm suffered.
The Scarlet Knights padded their lead with an unearned run in the eighth. Junior Pat Sweeney (Sparta, N.J.) walked to start the frame and moved up on a sacrifice bunt. Favatella was then intentionally walked to put two on, with O’Grady then grounding a ball to first that looked like a potential double play ball. However, the Cardinals threw away the relay to first to allow Sweeney to scamper home with an insurance score. UofL committed a total of three errors in the ballgame.
Junior Charlie Lasky (Freehold, N.J.) sat down Louisville in order in the eighth and worked around a two-out single in the ninth to close out the win. It was his eighth appearance of the season, tying for the team lead.
Chad Green (3-2), who entered the game with a 1.16 ERA, suffered the loss after permitting 12 hits and four earned runs in the start. Sutton Whiting led the hitters with two singles, as the Cardinals did not record an extra base hit.
Due to impending inclement weather in the local area, the teams will play a doubleheader Saturday at Patterson Stadium, starting at 1 p.m., to wrap up the three-game set. Rutgers will look to clinch its first-ever series over Louisville with seniors Tyler Gebler (Toms River, N.J.) and Charlie Law (Mainland, N.J.) making the starts on the mound.
?It was RU’s first win at UofL since May 17, 2008 … the two teams met for the first time since 2011 ... Smorol now has 35 career starts, seventh-most in school history … R.J. Devish made his first career start at catcher … Favatella has started the last 104 games … it was the first time in eight RU games that the outcome was not decided in the final at bat … Rutgers is 5-2 when scoring first … it was the second straight error-free game for the defense, being 3-1 in such contests this season … the game took exactly three hours.