PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Down 3-2 in the fifth, the Rutgers baseball team scored the final six runs of the game en route to an 8-3 victory over Cincinnati to sweep the three-game series from the Bearcats Sunday afternoon at Bainton Field.
The Scarlet Knights improved to 30-16 on the year, reaching the 30-win mark for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons and topping RU's win total from last season. More importantly, Rutgers improved to 16-5 in the BIG EAST and is tied with St. John's for first place in the league heading into the final two weeks of the season. Cincinnati fell to 25-23 overall and 8-12 in the BIG EAST. The sweep marks the fourth of the season in league play for RU, which also took all three games against Georgetown, Connecticut and USF.
Rutgers took a 2-0 lead in the first when senior All-American candidate Dave Williams (Franklin, N.J.) drove in Mike Bionde (Pompton Plains, N.J.) (single) and Ryan Hill (Hillsdale, N.J.) (walk) with a two-run double to the gap in right-center field.
Cincinnati cut the Rutgers lead in half with an RBI single off the bat of Ryan Baker in the third. The Bearcats then took their first and only lead of the game in the fifth when Josh Harrison hit a two-run double down the right-field line to make it 3-2. With Harrison on third and two outs, the Scarlet Knights went to their bullpen as junior lefty Matt Patterson (Passaic, N.J.) came in for starter Matt Giannini (Millington, N.J.) to face a pair of lefties coming to the plate. Patterson induced a grounder to second which Bionde picked up and got the runner out at home. The reliever then sent Kevin Johnson down on strikes to end the inning.
Rutgers responded in the bottom half of the fifth to tie it up. Junior All-American Todd Frazier (Toms River, N.J.) drew a leadoff walk and Bionde followed with a single to right field to put runners on the corners. Baker, the Cincinnati catcher, fired to second on a Bionde steal attempt but the throw was wild allowing Frazier to score from third to make it 3-3.
After a 1-2-3 sixth for Patterson, junior Jon Gossard (Harrington Park, N.J.) led off the bottom half of the frame with a single to left field to extend his team-best hitting streak to 23 games. After being sacrificed over, freshman Dan Betteridge (Sewell, N.J.) came in to pinch run for Gossard. With two outs, Cincinnati committed a pair of errors on the next play to allow the go-ahead run to score. Freshman Luis Feliz's (New Brunswick, N.J.) grounder was misplayed at third to allow Betteridge to score and the left-fielder scooped the ball before sending a wild throw to second to allow Feliz over to second.
A four-run eighth inning then put the game away for the Scarlet Knights. Senior Tim Querns (Cherry Hill, N.J.) walked and used two passed balls to move over to third where Feliz drove him in on a sac bunt for the first run. Consecutive RBI singles by Bionde and Hill plated the next two runs. With Bionde on second, the Cincinnati shortstop committed the Bearcats' fifth error of the game on a grounder by Williams. An alert Bionde came around to score on the play to make it 8-3.
Patterson worked a 1-2-3 eighth to complete his day with five strikeouts and just one hit in 3.2 scoreless innings to earn the victory and move to 2-0 on the season. In the ninth, he handed the ball over to closer Chris Lillis (Fair Haven, N.J.), who moved into third place on the Rutgers all-time list with his 75th career appearance. Lillis closed it out with a scoreless ninth as Rutgers completed the series sweep.
Bionde led RU's 10-hit attack with a 3-for-4 effort on Sunday.
Frazier completed the day with four walks and Hill drew a pair of base on balls as both players moved into second place on the Rutgers single-season walks list, just 10 walks shy of the all-time record of 56 set by Graig Badger in 2003.
Frazier also entered the BIG EAST all-time record books this weekend. With his four walks on Sunday, he moved into a tie for sixth place on the league's all-time walks list. With two runs in Sunday's contest, Frazier moved into a tie for seventh place on the BIG EAST's all-time runs scored chart. He has 60 career walks and 83 career runs scored.
Rutgers returns to action Wednesday, May 9, wrapping up its nine-game