PISCATAWAY, N.J. (April 24, 2013) – Rutgers baseball scored seven runs in the first four innings on the way to defeating Wagner, 9-5, Wednesday at Bainton Field. Senior Steve Zavala (Randolph, N.J.) recorded three hits to lead the offense, while freshman Howie Brey (Middletown, N.J.) worked 4.2 innings in relief to earn the win on the mound.
The victory puts the Scarlet Knights back over .500 at 20-19 and 7-3 at home, as the Seahawks dropped to 15-23.
Eight of the nine RU hitters notched an RBI in a balanced 11-hit attack, with junior Ross Costello (Egg Harbor Township, N.J.) picking up two knocked in on a pair of hits. Freshman Matt Tietz (West Milford, N.J.) had two hits to join Zavala and Costello with multiple hits.
The 4.2 innings out of the bullpen were a career-high for Brey (2-2), who stranded two inherited runners upon entering the game in the fourth inning on two strikeouts. The left-hander gave up two runs in the outing and induced two double play grounders.
After Wagner jumped out with a run in the first inning on a two-out hit by Chase Gray, RU answered with right away with one of its own. Tietz was hit by a pitch to leadoff and stole second, scoring promptly on a base hit by Favatella. The single extended Favatella’s hitting streak to 11 games.
After senior catcher Jeff Melillo (Annandale, N.J.) picked off a runner at first with the bases loaded and two outs to help avert a rally, junior Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) walked and stole second in the second inning. He came around to score on a double by Costello that stayed fair down the left field line. Following a groundout, Tietz tallied his 12th double of the season to plate Costello.
The 3-1 lead would not last for long as the Seahawks plated two runs (one unearned) to tie it up. The offensive production continued for RU, though, with Zavala doubling and coming home on a single by senior Charlie Law (Mainland, N.J.) in the third. Law has now registered at least one RBI in 14 of his last 17 games for a team-leading 32 on the season.
In the fourth, the Scarlet Knights added three runs to make it 7-3. Redshirt freshman John Jennings (Berkeley Heights, N.J.) walked, Tietz singled and Favatella was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. Then sophomore Vinny Zarrillo (Forked River, N.J.) grounded out to first for an RBI in addition to moving up both runners. Melillo followed with an RBI single to bring in Tietz, with Zavala adding in an RBI knock for the third run of the rally.
The game settled in from there with Brey using an effective breaking ball and located fastball to work through the middle innings.
Rutgers broke open the game for good after the seventh-inning stretch after Zavala doubled and scored with two outs on an RBI single by O’Grady. He then touched home on an opposite field base hit by Costello to pump the advantage up to 9-3.
In the eighth, Wagner scored twice on five hits, but O’Grady nailed a runner at the plate from center field with two outs to end the threat and keep it at a comfortable margin for the hosts.
Senior Jerry Elsing (Montville, N.J.) worked a scoreless ninth to cap off the victory, inducing a 4-6-3 double play to end it.
Nathan Hunt (2-2) took the loss for the Seahawks, as their offense collected 14 hits on the day. Shaun Flynn had three hits and three RBIs to lead the way.
Rutgers steps out of BIG EAST play this weekend and will travel to Omaha, Neb., to play in the TD Ameritrade Classic at the site of the College World Series. The opener of the event is scheduled against Oklahoma State at 3:30 p.m. EST Friday.
Favatella has started the last 126 games … Melillo has now picked off four runners at first this season … Brey tied Rob Corsi for the most appearances out of the bullpen (16) this season … Zarrillo has reached base safely in the last 14 games … RU had four stolen bases … Jennings had four assists and four putouts from shortstop … the game lasted 2:42 and was played with temperatures in the high 60s.