PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Rutgers junior Dennis Hill (Hillsdale, N.J.) pitched seven scoreless innings with six strikeouts as the Scarlet Knights (15-22, 3-12 BIG EAST) entered the eighth inning with a 2-0 lead, but Louisville scored two runs in the eighth to force extra innings where the Cardinals (27-10, 11-4 BIG EAST) eventually earned a 4-3 victory Sunday afternoon at Bainton Field to complete the series sweep.
After four scoreless innings of play, Rutgers jumped out the early lead in the fifth thanks to sophomore Jaren Matthews (Teaneck, N.J.). Louisville starter Mike Nastold was perfect through four innings, but his second offering of the fifth was sent over the right-field fence by Matthews for a solo home run. The Scarlet Knights’ sophomore slugger completed the day 4-for-6 at the plate with an RBI and two runs scored.
Matthews played a role in the Scarlet Knights’ second run of the contest as well, as RU extended its lead to 2-0 with a score in the seventh. The sophomore lifted a fly ball to the left side of the infield but the swirling wind sent it to the right side and third baseman Chris Dominguez couldn’t get to it in time as it dropped in for a base hit. Dominguez then misplayed a Jayson Hernandez (Belmar, N.J.) sacrifice bunt attempt on the next play as RU got two runners on to start the inning. Following a strikeout and a fielder’s choice that retired Hernandez and moved Matthews to third, Rutgers executed a double steal to perfection as Matthews crossed the plate while a confused Cardinal infield couldn’t get the ball home in time following a play at second base.
Meanwhile, Hill, making his first start since March 21, was solid on the mound, working seven scoreless frames with just two hits surrendered and six strikeouts before running into trouble in the eighth.
After giving up a single and a walk to open the eighth, Hill was relieved by Jason Downey (Ballston Lake, N.Y.). A double steal moved both runners into scoring position and an Andrew Clark fly ball to left field was misplayed allowing a run to score. Dominguez then plated a second run with a single through the right side to tie it up at 2-2, where it stayed until the 11th.
Rutgers got its leadoff man on courtesy of a Steven Zavala (Randolph, N.J.) single in the 10th but a double play canceled any scoring opportunity in the frame.
A Drew Haynes two-out single to right field off newly inserted Rutgers reliever Ryan Beard (Point Pleasant, N.J.) plated a run for Louisville in the 11th, but an excellent throw from center fielder Luis Feliz (New Brunswick, N.J.) gunned down a second Cardinal runner attempting to score on the play. The alert play by Feliz proved huge as Michael Lang (Dumont, N.J.) tied it up in the bottom half of the inning with a solo home run over the right field wall off newly-inserted reliever Gabriel Shaw.
Rutgers threatened in the 12th with a leadoff single from Matthews but Hernandez’ bunt attempt on a bunt-run play was popped up to the catcher, who alertly fired to first to complete a double play.
The Cardinals put a runner in scoring position with one out in the 13th, but Beard canceled any scoring opportunity with a pair of strikeouts to end the frame.
The Scarlet Knights had their best extra-inning scoring opportunity in the 13th, as Feliz opened the frame with a single off newly-inserted reliever Dean Kiekhefer and was sacrificed over before Brandon Boykin (Teaneck, N.J.) reached first after being hit. Lang hit a ball back to the mound that was corralled by Kiekhefer. The pitcher turned to get Boykin out at second and start a double play as the throw to first base arrived just before Lang to end the inning as Feliz crossed home plate in what would’ve been the game winning run.
Josh Richmond reached on a single to leadoff the 14th and two outs later, with Richmond on second, Clark singled back up the middle to bring him home to put Louisville up 4-3 and win it for the Cardinals.
Kiekhefer improved to 3-2 with the two innings of scoreless relief, while Beard moved to 0-2 with the loss in a season-long 3.2 innings of relief work.
The Scarlet Knights will travel to Easton, Pa. for a 3:30 game at Lafayette Wednesday.