CLEARWATER, Fla. (May 22, 2013) – No. 5 seed Rutgers baseball fell 5-2 to No. 4 USF in its late-night opener of the BIG EAST Championships Wednesday at Bright House Field. Due to inclement weather and an extra-inning game earlier in the day, the contest did not start until 10:23 p.m. and ended at 1:16 a.m.
The defeat puts the Scarlet Knights in the loser’s bracket side of group two with an elimination game against top-seeded Louisville set for Thursday at 5 p.m. RU took the series versus UofL in the regular season at Patterson Stadium.
Taking on the Bulls (36-20) for the fourth straight time, Rutgers (26-29) jumped up in the second to an early 1-0 advantage. Senior Jeff Melillo (Annandale, N.J.) singled through the left side to leadoff and moved up to third two batters later on a hit to the right-center gap by classmate Charlie Law (Mainland, N.J.). Then junior Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) stepped up and fell behind two strikes, but stayed in there and lifted a fly ball deep enough into left field to bring home Melillo for a sacrifice fly.
USF’s first threat of the game came in the third when the Bulls put two runners on with one out. However, RU senior starter Rob Smorol (Clark, N.J.) buckled down and struck out the first and second batters of the lineup to escape unscathed.
The Bulls tied the game in the fourth on an RBI double by Chris Norton. The frame ended on a rare play as the Scarlet Knights successfully appealed a runner leaving second too early. One inning later, three straight two-out singles put RU in a 4-1 hole that proved to be too much.
The deficit slipped to 5-1 on another two-out hit from USF in the seventh. RU attempted to stage a comeback with two outs in the eighth after drawing three walks, but a foul pop to the catcher ended the threat. Another rally was put together in the ninth with the tying run up with no outs, but the offense could only muster an RBI fielder’s choice by Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.) to set the final score at 5-2.
Redshirt freshman John Jennings (Berkeley Heights, N.J.) reached base three times for Rutgers, but the team was doomed by 11 runners left on. It was the program’s 13th appearance in the BIG EAST Championships.
Smorol (5-7) struck out six in a 4.2-inning loss, bringing his career total to 206 punchouts. Jimmy Herget (6-2) picked up the win for the Bulls by giving up one run over 7.2 frames.
The Scarlet Knights will next fight to keep their season alive versus Louisville Thursday, with Law matching up on the mound with Chad Green. The Cardinals were dealt a 3-2 loss in extra innings to No. 8 Connecticut.