TAMPA, Fla. – Senior Dave Williams (Franklin, N.J.) and junior Ryan Hill (Hillsdale, N.J.) drove in two runs apiece and sophomore Matt Giannini (Millington, N.J.) struck out six and allowed just three hits in six strong innings to lead the Rutgers team to a 5-2 victory over USF in the BIG EAST series opener Friday night at Red McEwen Field.
The Scarlet Knights improved to a BIG EAST-best 10-3 in league play and 22-14 overall, while the Bulls fell to 9-7 in the conference and 27-13 overall.
Rutgers took a 1-0 lead on a two-out RBI single from Hill in the third. The Scarlet Knights pushed another run across in the fifth when Frank Meade (Linden, N.J.) drilled a ball deep in the gap in left-center field and scored two plays later on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Todd Frazier (Toms River, N.J.).
Meanwhile, Giannini shut down the USF offense in the opening third of the game. He didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning, retiring eight of the first 10 batters of the contest. USF finally got a hit off Giannini with one out in the fourth when Dexter Butler hit a chopper deep in the hole between second and third base for an infield single.
The Bulls' second hit of the game, however, tied it up one inning later when Brad Karns hit a two-out, two-run home run over the left-field fence to make it 2-2.
The Scarlet Knights threatened in the top of the sixth, putting a pair of runners on to lead off the frame and sacrificing both into scoring position. However, a nice defensive stop at third base for the Bulls kept both runners at bay for the second out and starter Danny Otero got a big strikeout to end the inning unscathed for the Bulls.
The Bulls threatened themselves in the bottom half of the inning, loading the bases with one out. Giannini worked out of the jam with two huge strikeouts, battling back from a 2-0 count to the final batter, to prevent any runs.
In similar fashion, Rutgers loaded the bases with one out in the seventh on a Luis Feliz (New Brunswick, N.J.) walk and consecutive singles by Frazierand Mike Bionde (Pompton Plains, N.J.). Unlike the Bulls, the Scarlet Knights capitalized on the scoring opportunity to re-capture the lead. Facing a full count, Hill drew a walk to score Feliz for the go-ahead run. The biggest blow was by Dave Williams (Franklin, N.J.), who lined a ball down the right field line on the next play for a two-run double to score Frazier and Bionde and give RU the three-run cushion.
Giannini allowed just three hits with six strikeouts in his six innings of work to improve to 3-3 on the year, before handing the ball over to reliever Jason Downey (Ballston Lake, N.J.) with the three-run lead. Downey worked three scoreless innings with two strikeouts and yielded just three this in his first career save.
Ottero (6-5), who had yielded just 12 walks in 76.2 innings this season entering tonight's contest, issued five walks along with five hits and eight strikeouts against the Scarlet Knights. The Bulls starter gave up five earned runs before being yanked at the end of the seventh in the loss.
Friday's win marked the first-ever victory for Rutgers over USF. RU entered the night 0-3 all-time against the Bull. The teams hadn't faced each other since 1983.
Friday marked the end of an impressive hitting streak as sophomore Tom Edwards (Caldwell, N.J.) had his 18-game hitting streak snapped after going 0-for-3 in the series opener.
Frazier finished the game with one hit to pass former Rutgers All-American and current Scarlet Knights assistant coach Glen Gardner for 10th place on the school's hit chart with his 202nd career hit. He also earned a pair of walks on Friday to pass former Major League Baseball All-Star Eric Young and move into fifth place on the Rutgers career walks list with 111.
Rutgers and USF will continue their series with another 6:00 p.m. game tomorrow. Senior righty Steve Healing (Brick, N.J.) will be on the mound for the Scarlet Knights against junior righty Chris Delaney for the Bulls.