MIAMI, Fla. – The Rutgers baseball team jumped out to an early lead on No. 12 Miami, but the Hurricanes responded with six unanswered runs en route to a 6-1 victory over the Scarlet Knights in front of a sellout crowd of 3,000 at the new Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field Friday night in Miami, Fla. in the season opener for both teams.
In a battle of two of the winningest coaches in the college game, Miami skipper Jim Morris recorded his 1,200 career victory Friday night. Rutgers head coach Fred Hill, the 12th winningest active coach in the nation, is just 42 wins shy of 1,000 victories in his storied career.
In the third, junior Dan Betteridge (Sewell, N.J.) followed a Jarred Jimenez (Monroe, N.J.) leadoff walk with a single to right field to give the Scarlet Knights their first hit of the game and put Jimenez on third. Two plays later, junior Jayson Hernandez (Belmar, N.J.) gave Rutgers its first run of the season and a one-run early edge on Miami with a hard-hit grounder up the middle to get Jimenez home. The Hurricane second baseman made a diving stop to get the out at second and prevent further damage on the play.
Miami answered with a run in the bottom of the third thanks to a pair of two-out hits, including an RBI double down the left-field line off the bat of Scott Lawson.
Jason Hagerty drew a leadoff walk for the Hurricanes in the fifth and moved into scoring position thanks to an errant throw on a steal attempt. Lawson then collected his second two-out RBI of the contest two plays later with a single to right field to bring home Hagerty for the go-ahead score.
Senior Luis Feliz (New Brunswick, N.J.) used a one-out double and a fielder’s choice to move within 90 feet of the tying score with two outs in the sixth but, Miami ace Chris Hernandez got redshirt freshman Russ Hopkins (Piscataway, N.J.) to go down on strikes to end the inning.
With nearly 90 pitches thrown, Gaynor was relieved as redshirt freshman Willie Beard (Spotswood, N.J.) made his collegiate debut to start the sixth. After inducing a fly out to the first batter he faced, Beard ran into trouble, loading the bases on a single and two walks. UM’s Harold Martinez gave the Hurricanes some breathing room with a line drive single to center field to plate a pair of runs and build a 4-1 lead on the Scarlet Knights. An alert Feliz in center field collected the ball and fired to third base to get an out on the play and newly-inserted reliever Kevin Lillis (Fair Haven, N.J.) prevented any further damage with a strikeout to end the frame.
With the three-run cushion, Miami went to its bullpen with Taylor Wulf replacing Hernandez, the 2008 National Freshman of the Year, to start the seventh. The reliever got a 1-2-3 frame but ran into trouble one inning later when Betteridge and sophomore Jaren Matthews (Teaneck, N.J.) sprayed singles through the left and right side, respectively, on consecutive pitches from Wulf in the eighth. However, the UM reliever used a pair of strikeouts and a fly out to get out of the jam unscathed.
The defensive play of the night went to Feliz, who tracked down a hard-hit fly ball to center field off the bat of Yasmani Grandal and made a nice catch at the wall before crashing into the fence.
Three Scarlet Knights – Hopkins, Beard and true freshman Charlie Law (Mainland, N.J.) – made their collegiate debut in Friday night’s contest. Law was inserted as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning. Junior reliever Sean Peterson (Wall, N.J.) made his Scarlet Knight debut in the eighth. He played two seasons at Indian River Community College before transferring to Rutgers this season.
Grandal added to Rutgers’ lead in the eighth with a towering two-run home run over the scoreboard in left field.
Gaynor worked a solid five innings, with a pair of strikeouts and just one earned run, despite taking the loss. Hernandez improved to 12-0 all-time as a Hurricane with seven strikeouts and one run on three hits in six innings of work.
Rutgers and Miami return to Alex Rodriguez Park tomorrow for a doubleheader beginning at 4:00 p.m. The Scarlet Knights will give the ball to junior lefty Dennis Hill (Hillsdale, N.J.) in game one and Law, a righty, in game two.