TAMPA, Fla. (May 18, 2013) – Behind a 17-hit attack, Rutgers baseball took down USF, 10-6, in the finale of the series Saturday at USF Baseball Stadium. The Scarlet Knights have racked up 86 hits in their last six games.
RU (26-28, 14-10 BIG EAST) became the first BIG EAST team to knock off the Bulls (35-20, 17-7 BIG EAST) at home, as the two teams will meet again the first round of the BIG EAST Championships Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla.
Junior Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.) led the way for Rutgers with a 4-for-5 game, scoring three times and stealing two bases. Sophomore Vinny Zarrillo (Forked River, N.J.) also kept up his hot hitting with three more hits to clinch the league batting title at .407. A Scarlet Knight has taken that honor in three of the last four seasons.
Senior Jeff Melillo (Annandale, N.J.) crushed his sixth home of the season and second of the series to provide pop to the middle of the order, as every starter notched at least one hit. The offense was not set down in order the entire game.
On the mound, senior Nathaniel Roe (Plainfield, N.J.) (2-2) picked up the win after working 2.2 effective innings of relief. The right-hander retired eight straight batter in a row in the middle frames to allow the offense to break open the game. Classmate Tyler Gebler (Toms River, N.J.) earned his third save of the season.
With the RU holding on to a 5-3 lead in the seventh, Zarrillo connected for a three-run double down the left field line to open the advantage up to five. The rally started with a single up the middle by redshirt freshman John Jennings (Berkeley Heights, N.J.) with two away and was prolonged on throwing error from shortstop. After Favatella walked, Zarrillo laced a sharp double to clear the bases.
Junior Lou Clemente (Union, N.J.) lifted a sacrifice fly to extend the advantage to 9-3 in the eighth. However, the Bulls fought back with three runs in the bottom of the frame and put the tying run on base. That did not phase Gebler, who started a 1-2-3 double play to escape the threat. Melillo added a sacrifice fly in the ninth to set the final score.
Joey Lovecchio (5-5) suffered the loss for the hosts in a two-inning start. Senior Rob Corsi (Oceanport, N.J.) picked up a no-decision in his start for RU, surrendering two runs over four frames.
The Scarlet Knights came out swinging, recording five hits in the first two innings off Lovecchio. Favatella singled with one out in the first, coming home with two down on a wild pitch. Then in the second, junior Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) walked after an out and stole second right away. Following a strikeout, Jennings stepped up and connected for a RBI single up the middle to make it 2-0. Freshman Matt Tietz (West Milford, N.J.) continued the rally with a base hit, with Favatella recording the second two-out RBI single to plate Jennings.
The Bulls answered back with a two-out RBI hit of their own, but Corsi induced a grounder to first to strand the bases loaded in second. The home team chipped away to make it 3-2 after three.
After a scoreless fourth from both teams, RU added to its lead with a pair of runs in the fifth. Melillo led off with his sixth homer of the season, a long blast to deep center field that measured over 400 feet. It continued when senior Steve Zavala (Randolph, N.J.) walked and came around on a one-out double by Clemente into the right field corner.
In the bottom of the inning, the Bulls brought in a run on a pair of singles and wild pitches to cut it to a two-run game. Roe then entered and stranded an inherited runner on a strikeout and pop fly. That led to the Scarlet Knights opening a six-run lead and holding on late.
In the three-game series, both Zarrillo and Favatella went a blistering 8-for-13 (.533) to spark the attack. The team combined to hit .345.
As mentioned before, RU and USF will meet again in the BIG EAST Championships Wednesday at 8 p.m.