BROOKLYN, N.Y. – The second-seeded Rutgers baseball team used three home runs and a complete-game performance from sophomore pitcher Matt Gianinni (Millington, N.J.) to defeat sixth-seeded Villanova, 11-0, in the BIG EAST Baseball Championship at KeySpan Park Thursday afternoon.
The Scarlet Knights (38-19) earn a re-match with third-seeded Louisville Friday morning at 10:00 a.m. RU needs to defeat the Cardinals twice on Friday to advance to Saturday's championship game. The Scarlet Knights and Cardinals met on Wednesday with the Cardinals posting an 8-1 win over the Scarlet Knights.
Junior All-American Todd Frazier (Toms River, N.J.) led the Scarlet Knights offensively with a 4-for-6 day that included a home run and three doubles. Junior Ryan Hill (Hillsdale, N.J.) and sophomore Tom Edwards (Caldwell, N.J.) also hit homers for RU, while Giannini record the first complete-game shutout of his career.
"I was very pleased with the all-round effort our guys showed today," said Rutgers head coach Fred Hill. "Todd [Frazier] certainly had a magnificent day but we also had other guys perform well and Matt [Gianinni] was working his pitches well. We take it one game at a time and next up is Louisville."
Rutgers capitalized on a Villanova error to push across its first two runs with two outs in the third. With Dave Williams (Franklin, N.J.) (double) on third and Edwards (single) on second, Jon Gossard (Harrington Park, N.J.) hit what appeared to be an inning-ending flyout but the second baseman kept drifting back into the outfield and the ball hit off the fielder's glove, allowing both Scarlet Knights to score.
Frazier doubled to leadoff the fourth, stole second and came around to score on a Mike Bionde (Pompton Plains, N.J.) RBI single. The Scarlet Knights weren't finished in the inning, however as Edwards singled home Bionde later in the frame off new pitcher Josh Eidell to make it 4-0.
RU added to its lead with four runs in the fifth highlighted by home runs by Frazier and Hill. Frazier's home run was a two-run blast – his school record 20th of the season and 40th of his career – that cleared the Cyclones' scoreboard in left-center field, traveling an estimated 470 feet. Hill followed two batters later with a solo shot to right field.
The Scarlet Knights continued their power hitting barrage when Edwards opened the sixth with an opposite-field blast – his seventh of the season – to make it 9-0.
RU tacked on two more runs in the ninth to make it 11-0 and after Villanova loaded the bases in the bottom-half of the ninth, Bionde preserved the shutout with a nice stop at second base and throw to first for the final putout of the contest.
Gianini scattered 11 hits with six strikeouts to earn the first complete-game shutout of his career. He improved to 5-4 on the year with his second victory over Villanova in less than a week. His counterpart, Bill Hoffman of Villanova, fell to 4-8 on the season with four runs (two earned) on seven hits and five strikeouts in 3.1 innings of play.
Frazier recorded 10 total bases on Thursday to break the Rutgers single-season mark with 166 this year. He recorded his 200th run, moving him into second place on the Rutgers all-time runs scored list. The All-American also moved into third place on the school's all-time hits chart with 231 in his career and stole his 64th career base to tie Eric Young (1987-89) for third place all-time.
Frazier and Williams each have 83 hits on the year, good enough for ninth-place in school history.