PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Rutgers erased a 9-1 seventh-inning deficit and junior All-American Todd Frazier (Toms River, N.J.) completed the comeback with a two-run walk-off home run in the ninth to lift the Scarlet Knights to a 12-10 victory over Connecticut and complete the series sweep Saturday afternoon at Bainton Field.
The Scarlet Knights extended their win streak to five games and took over sole possession of first place in the BIG EAST with a 7-2 league record and 17-12 overall mark. Connecticut dropped to 3-6 in the league and 13-15 overall.
Down 9-1, Rutgers stormed back with six runs in the seventh, two more in the eighth and completed the improbable comeback with three runs in the bottom of the ninth, highlighted by Frazier's third home run of the series.
RU entered the ninth with a 10-9 deficit, facing new UConn reliever Ted Garry. The Scarlet Knights got their first base runner thanks to an error by the Huskie shortstop. An infield groundout then put the tying run in scoring position where pinch hitter Jon Gossard (Harrington Park, N.J.) drilled a ball back up the middle to score the equalizer. Frazier then stepped to the plate and took Garry's first offering way over the left-field fence for the two-run shot, igniting a celebration at home plate to welcome home Frazier and the winning scores.
“This is speaks to the enthusiasm this team shows every game,” said Frazier.” “Coming around third to step on home plate with my teammates waiting there to celebrate after the home run was something I will never forget. This was an unbelievable week for both this team and myself and I hope we can continue this momentum the rest of the season.”
It was the junior's third home run in as many days (he hit a grand slam in each of the previous two games of the series). The Scarlet Knight All-American took over sole possession of second place on the Rutgers career home run list with his 33rd career home run and moved within one home run of the school's single-season record with his 13th blast of the year. He is now tied for second on the single-season chart with his brother Jeff's 2002 and 2004 totals.
The ninth-inning dramatics were set up by a six-run seventh inning that got RU back in the game. UConn starter Greg Nappo put the first four batters on and let in a run on a Frazier RBI single to end the Huskie hurler's day. He handed it over to Matt Karl with the bases loaded. Karl's first batter Ryan Hill (Hillsdale, N.J.) drew a walk to score another run. Cleanup hitter Dave Williams (Franklin, N.J.) then laced a ball to left field to plate two more runs. One out later with runners on the corners, Tim Querns (Cherry Hill, N.J.) hit a ball to the third baseman, who fielded it cleanly and tried for a double play but his throw to second base sailed high into right field, allowing a fifth run to score and Tom Edwards (Caldwell, N.J.), who reached on a fielder's choice, to move from first to third. Down to its final out in the inning, freshman Dan Betteridge (Sewell, N.J.), who led off the inning as a pinch hitter, drilled a ball deep into the hole at shortstop for a single to plate Edwards and make it 9-7.
Connecticut got one of those runs back, capitalizing on a Scarlet Knight error in the eighth to make it 10-7, but the Scarlet Knights continued their momentum in the bottom half of the inning. RU put together a two-out rally when Edwards followed a pair of walks with a bloop single to right field to score one run and put another runner within 90-feet of home plate. The rattled Connecticut hurler then lost control of a pitch with it sailing high above the catcher and off the backstop, letting another run home as the Scarlet Knights pulled within a run at 10-9.
Rutgers reliever Chris Lillis (Fair Haven, N.J.) held the Huskies in check in the top of the ninth, setting up Frazier's heroics. Lillis, RU's fifth pitcher of the contest, earned the win to improve to 1-1 on the season. Garry (1-3) was tagged with the loss with three runs (two earned) in a third of an inning. Freshman Casey Gaynor (Toms River, N.J.) started the game for Rutgers, working 3.1 innings with six runs on eight hits and two strikeouts.
The Scarlet Knights have earned sweeps in two of their three BIG EAST series. RU also swept Georgetown earlier this season.
Rutgers returns to action against Columbia at Bainton Field on Tuesday, April 10, at 3:00 p.m.