CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – No. 23-ranked and second-seeded Rutgers scored five runs in the eighth thanks to a pair of two-run home runs from Frank Meade (Linden, N.J) and Dave Williams (Franklin, N.J.) to take an 11-7 lead and held on to beat fourth-seeded Lafayette, 11-10, in an elimination game in the NCAA Championship Regionals Saturday afternoon at Davenport Field.
The win improved the Scarlet Knights to 42-20 on the season, tying the 2001 team for the most wins in school history. Rutgers earned its first NCAA Tournament win since an 8-5 victory over Jacksonville in the Tallahassee Regional in 2003.
RU will again face Oregon State, who fell to Virginia 7-4 in 13 innings, in an elimination game Sunday at 1:00 p.m.
The teams combined for 31 hits and 21 runs in the game, scoring a combined 14 runs in the final three innings.
“This is a great way to bounce back,” said
Senior Mike Bionde (Pompton Plains, N.J.) lined a ball down the left-field line for a one-out double in the first and came around to score on a fielding error to take a 1-0 lead, beginning the see-saw battle.
Kevin Leasure tied it up for the Leopards (33-20) with a two-out RBI single that found a hole through the right side in the bottom of first.
The Scarlet Knights jumped back on top, 2-1, in the third when junior National Player of the Year candidate Todd Frazier (Toms River, N.J.) doubled down the left-field line to lead off the frame, moved to third on a wild pickoff throw and scored two plays later, sliding into home past the tag following a Ryan Hill (Hillsdale, N.J.) infield grounder.
RU held its advantage until the fifth when Lafayette pushed across three runs on three-straight hits, including back-to-back triples from James Conrad and Chris Luick to give the Leopards a 4-2 lead, while chasing starter Casey Gaynor (Toms River, N.J.) out of the game. Reliever Jason Downey (Ballston Lake, N.J.) came in to get the next two batters out, preventing further damage.
Williams drew a four-pitch leadoff walk and came around to score a run in the sixth as Rutgers chipped away at the Lafayette lead.
The Scarlet Knights continued their offensive production in the seventh off newly-inserted Kevin Reese. Meade started things off with a leadoff double down the left-field line. Luis Feliz's (New Brunswick, N.J.) bunt on the next play was fielded by the catcher but the throw as wild, allowing Meade to score the tying run. Frazier followed with a double to the wall in center to plate Feliz and Hill finished off the scoring with an RBI single to center to put the Scarlet Knights back on top 6-4.
Lafayette answered Rutgers with three runs of its own to re-take a one run lead (7-6) thanks to a two-run double from Leasure and a Tom Hayes RBI single. Freshman Kevin Lillis (Fair Haven, N.J.) came in for Downey, getting an inning-ending double play to hold Lafayette to the one-run advantage.
The Leopard lead didn't last for long as Meade and Williams sandwiched a Hill RBI single with a pair of two-run home runs in the eighth to re-capture a lead the Scarlet Knights would not surrender, making it 11-7 in favor of RU.
Lafayette made it interesting when Dave Drechsel homered to lead off the Leopard's half of the eighth and Leasure hit a two-run blast in the ninth. However, Kevin handed the ball over to older brother Chris Lillis (Fair Heaven, N.J.), who retired the next three batters to seal the win for Rutgers.
Kevin Lillis picked up the win to move to 2-0 on the year while Chris Lillis registered the save. It was Chris' fifth save of the season and 13th of his career, moving him into sole possession of third place on the school's all-time saves list. John Fugett took the loss for Lafayette in relief, falling to 2-2 on the year.
The two home runs extended Rutgers' school-record home run total to 62 on the year, while Meade moved into a tie with Jake Daubert (1998-2000) for sixth place on the school's all-time home runs list.
Frazier scored a pair of runs on the day to become the Rutgers all-time single-season scoring leader with 86 runs this year to pass current Kansas City Royal's starting center fielder David DeJesus' 85-run total in 1999. Frazier finished with a pair of doubles in his second-straight game to tie the school's single-season record for doubles (Val Majeski in 2001 and Dave Marciniak in 1998) with 24 this year. His two hits move him into fourth place on the RU single-season hits chart with 93 this season.
Frazier owns single-season school records in four different categories (home runs, runs scored, walks, total bases) and shares the all-time single-season mark for doubles.