PISCATAWAY, N.J. – The Rutgers baseball team scored a run in the sixth, two in the eighth and brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but Louisville thwarted the Scarlet Knights’ comeback attempt with a game-ending triple play as the Cardinals (26-10, 10-4 BIG EAST) escaped with a 7-4 victory over the Scarlet Knights (15-21, 3-11 BIG EAST) in front of a season-high home crowd of 544 at Bainton Field Saturday afternoon.
A strong effort from Louisville’s starting pitcher for the second day in a row saw Thomas Royse hurl five innings of one-run ball with 10 strikeouts.
After trimming the lead to three runs, the Scarlet Knights put their first two runners on in the ninth thanks to singles from Feliz and D.J. Anderson (Randolph, N.J.) against Louisville closer Tony Zych. The Cardinal defense bailed the hurler out, however, when first baseman Clark made a nice catch on a hard line drive seemingly headed to right field off the bat of Dan Perrine (Scotch Plains, N.J.). The Cardinal first baseman stepped on the bag to get Anderson out and fired to shortstop John Dao, who was covering second base, to finish off a game-ending triple play.
Louisville built an early lead with a run in the first when Cardinal All-American Chris Dominguez doubled off the wall and came around to score a run in the second. The Cardinals extended their advantage one inning later with a four-run third frame. After loading the bases without recording an out, Clark earned a base on balls to bring home the first run and Dominguez plated two runs on a single to center field. Ryan Wright capped the scoring with an RBI single up the middle to make it 5-0.
Senior Luis Feliz (New Brunswick, N.J.) took Louisville starter Thomas Royse’s first offering of the third to center field for a leadoff single and Brandon Boykin (Teaneck, N.J.) doubled him home two batters later to give Rutgers its first run of the game.
A pair of runs in the fifth built the Cardinals’ lead to 7-1.
With Royse out of the game to start the sixth, junior Dan Betteridge (Sewell, N.J.) greeted new pitcher Gavin Logsdon with a solo home run to lead off the frame.
The Scarlet Knights put together an eighth-inning rally when Jayson Hernandez (Belmar, N.J.) stepped to the plate with runners on the corners – courtesy of singles from Michael Lang (Dumont, N.J.) and Steven Zavala (Randolph, N.J.) – and two outs and sent a ball down the left-field line for a two-run double to make it 7-4.
Meanwhile, Rutgers’ relief trio of Sean Peterson (Wall, N.J.), Kevin Lillis (Fair Haven, N.J.) and Ryan Beard (Point Pleasant, N.J.) worked perfect seventh, eighth and ninth frames, respectively, to hold the Cardinals at bay and set up the ninth-inning dramatics.
Rutgers starter Casey Gaynor (Toms River, N.J.) worked six innings, striking out six and allowing six earned runs on seven hits in the loss. Royse picked up the win for the Cardinals with his five innings of work to improve to 3-2, while Zych recorded his second save of the season.
The triple play was the second of the month for the Cardinals, who also performed the feat against Ball State on April 1.
Rutgers and Louisville will close the series with a noon game Sunday.