PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. (March 30, 2013) – Rutgers baseball tied a season-high with 16 hits and received another strong pitching performance to finish off the sweep of Villanova, 9-4, Saturday at Villanova Ballpark at Plymouth. It was the second straight year the Scarlet Knights took all three from the Wildcats and the first time ever achieving the feat at VU’s park.
Rutgers improved to 5-1 in the BIG EAST, earning the most conference wins through two weeks of play. The team has won 8 of its last 11 to end the season-opening road stretch at 11-12.
Senior Charlie Law (Mainland, N.J.) (2-2) pitched six innings and struck out eight to even his record, allowing three hits and three runs to continue the string of strong starting pitching. The right-hander did not permit a run until the sixth to bring RU’s scoreless streak up to 24.2 innings to start the series. Through six conference games, the Rutgers starters have worked to a 1.42 ERA.
Senior Rob Corsi (Oceanport, N.J.) earned his second save of the season after tossing the last three frames, striking out three.
The offense saw plenty of production from the top of the order, with the top four in the lineup – freshman Matt Tietz (West Milford, N.J.), junior Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.), junior Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) and sophomore Vinny Zarrillo (Forked River, N.J) – all collecting three hits. RU outscored VU 17-4 for the weekend.
Rutgers jumped out right away to take a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Tietz walked on four pitches to start the game and moved up to third on a double down the left field line by Favatella. Then both runners came in on a wild pitch that deflected to the backstop, as Villanova catcher Bob Slagle could not locate the ball.
The Scarlet Knights collected single runs in the third and fifth to open up a 4-0 advantage. In the third, senior Jeff Melillo (Annandale, N.J.) blooped in an RBI single with the bases loaded to plate Favatella. Two innings later RU loaded the bases again, with senior Bill Hoermann (Toms River, N.J.) working a walk for an RBI with two outs. Hoermann reached base in four of his five plate appearance, walking three times.
Villanova broke through in the sixth to creep within one on a three-run homer by Connor Jones to right field. A single by Max Beerman and a walk by Brandon Carr setup the long ball with two outs. It was the first runs RU allowed in the series.
Responding to a suddenly close game, senior Steve Zavala (Randolph, N.J.) walked with one out in the seventh and Hoermann singled to put two on. Then after a pitching change, Law entered into the game as the designated hitter and laced an RBI single to right to plate Zavala.
The Wildcats attempted to rally against Corsi in the bottom of the seventh with a one-out single, but O’Grady showed off his arm from center after a putout to double-up the runner to end the inning.
Another insurance run was added in the eight when Tietz doubled to leadoff and moved up on a Favatella sacrifice bunt. Following a strikeout for the second out, Zarrillo stepped up against a side-winding lefty and ripped a single the opposite way into left field to chase home Tietz.
RU broke open the game for good with three runs in the ninth. Zavala was hit by a pitch and moved up to second to start on a wild pitch. After Hoermann was walked intentionally, Law came up again and registered another RBI hit. He went 2-for-2 with two RBIs after exiting as a pitcher. The final rally continued after a sacrifice bunt when Tietz singled off the pitcher a RBI and Favatella came through with a sacrifice fly for the ninth run.
Corsi allowed one run in the ninth, but prevented VU (6-19, 0-3 BIG EAST) from getting back into the contest with a game-ending punchout. The left-hander leads the pitching staff with 11 appearances this season.
Josh Harris (2-4), who entered the game with a 1.32 ERA, took the loss after giving up four runs and eight hits over 4.2 innings. Kevin Jewitt went 2-for-4 on offense, as Tyler Sciacca collected an RBI single in the ninth.
The Scarlet Knights played errorless ball on the field throughout the three-game series.
Rutgers will open its home schedule Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. against Columbia at Bainton Field. The Scarlet Knights went 14-6 at home in 2012.
The offense also had 16 hits in the series finale at Old Dominion … RU has won its last three weekend series … it was the seventh straight road weekend set … Favatella has started the last 109 games … O’Grady is on a team-leading 12-game hitting streak … RU also started BIG EAST play at 5-1 in 2010 … the Scarlet Knights now lead the all-time series over the Wildcats, 37-36, after winning the last six dating back to last season … now 9-2 when scoring first and 6-1 when not committing an error … temperatures were in the high 50s … Pittsburgh is in first in the BIG EAST standings at 3-0 but they did not play a league series this weekend … it was the final BIG EAST series between Rutgers and Villanova.