CLEARWATER, Fla. (May 23, 2013) – Behind an early offensive barrage and a complete game outing from senior Charlie Law (Mainland, N.J.), No. 5 seed Rutgers baseball eliminated top-seeded Louisville with a convincing 9-1 victory Thursday in the BIG EAST Championships at Bright House Field. The Scarlet Knights have defeated the Cardinals, who are ranked in the top ten nationally, in three-of-four meetings this season.
RU will next face the USF Friday at 6 p.m. for the right to advance to the semifinals.
Law (6-5) went the distance for the first time in his career with nine strikeouts, while adding in two hits and two runs offensively. The right-hander picked up his second win of the season over the Cardinals, surrendering just two earned runs over 17 innings in the outings. Being in command from the start, he faced four hitters or less in six of the nine frames Thursday.
The bats pounded out 14 hits in the game, including 10 in the first three innings. Junior Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) led the way with a 3-for-4 performance, while four other hitters notched two hits. Both seniors Jeff Melillo (Annandale, N.J.) and Steve Zavala (Randolph, N.J.) recorded two RBIs. RU had the leadoff man reach in six of the eight offensive frames, hitting 8-for-16 with runners in scoring position. Six of the nine runs came home with two outs.
Chad Green (9-3) took his second loss of the year against RU, giving up five earned runs in two-plus innings. He has permitted nine earned runs to Rutgers this season and only seven to the rest of the BIG EAST in seven outings.
The Scarlet Knights (27-29) put the attack on right away, scoring four runs on five hits in the first inning. Freshman Matt Tietz (West Milford, N.J.) and junior Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.) both singled to start, moving into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Vinny Zarrillo (Forked River, N.J.). After a strikeout, Zavala ripped a clutch RBI single to put Rutgers on the board. Law followed with a single of his own to plate Zavala and moved up to second on an error in the outfield. O’Grady made that miscue hurt by hitting a double to score the fourth run of the rally.
The lead expanded to 6-0 after three with the persistent attack. Redshirt freshman John Jennings (Berkeley Heights, N.J.) led off the second with a walk and Tietz singled to keep the pressure on. Zarrillo was intentionally walked following a sacrifice bunt by Favatella, but Melillo was able to lift a ball deep enough for a sacrifice fly. The sixth run came across when senior Bill Hoermann (Toms River, N.J.) laced a single the other way to score O’Grady, who had doubled to lead off. That hit led to a pitching change, as UofL (46-12) was forced to use four relievers in the game.
Law faced some trouble in the fifth with two on and one out, but settled down and successfully fielded a bunt and induced a routine grounder to Hoermann at first to escape the threat. That momentum led two more in the bottom of the frame. O’Grady roped his second double to start and moved up on a situational grounder to the right side by Hoermann. After a strikeout and walk to Tietz, Favatella connected for a liner to left to plate the seventh score. Zarrillo kept it going with a chopper down the third base line that was unplayable, scoring Tietz.
A 6-4-3 double play in the eighth helped Law keep the shutout intact, with Melillo lifting his second sacrifice fly of the game to make it 9-0. Law surrendered a run in the ninth, but finished it out when O’Grady made a nice running catch in deep left-center.
RU will be playing USF for the fifth time in six games.
Third time RU scored at least four runs in the first inning this year … Law now has 82 strikeouts for the season, third-most in a single season in program history … team is now 21-2 when scoring at least six runs in a game … snaps a five-game losing streak in the BIG EAST Championships … 26-22 all-time in the event … defense played errorless ball in the first two games of the tournament … team used only nine players for the whole game … racked up double-digit hits in 25 games … it was the 400th win for RU during the tenure of head equipment manager John Reardon … the game lasted 2:39 and was played with temperatures in the low 80s.