MORGANTOWN, W. Va. - Juniors Jarred Jimenez (Monroe, N.J.) and Dan Betteridge (Sewell, N.J.) combined to drive in seven runs and lead the Rutgers baseball team to a 12-7 victory over West Virginia Saturday afternoon at Hawley Field in Morgantown, W. Va. to even the series at a game apiece. The win, which snapped a five-game losing streak, improved the Scarlet Knights to 18-27 overall and 5-15 in the BIG EAST as they seek one of the final remaining spots in the BIG EAST Tournament at the end of the month.
Each Scarlet Knight collected two hits on the afternoon with Jimenez brining home four runs and Betteridge driving in three.
Sophomore Jaren Matthews (Teaneck, N.J.) gave Rutgers the early lead with two outs in the first, following a hit batsman with a towering two-run home run – his sixth of the season – over the right-field fence.
The Mountaineers (30-14, 12-8 BIG EAST) used a small-ball approach to produce three runs in the third and take a 3-2 advantage. The leadoff man reached base and moved to second on an infield error where he was sacrificed over. Following a lineout, WVU used a pair of bunt singles to third base to get a run home. A walk then loaded the bases and a dribbler in the infield got a second run home before the Mountaineers scored a third run on a passed ball.
An RBI single to center field off the bat of Betteridge sparked a three-run third inning for the Scarlet Knights as they re-captured a two-run lead. Matthews’ second hit of the game loaded the bases and Jimenez delivered a line drive down the left-field line to score a pair of runs to make it 5-3, ending West Virginia starter Chase Pickering’s day after just 2.2 innings.
The Scarlet Knights countered a WVU run in the bottom half of the third with a two-run fourth inning on a two-run single through the left side from Betteridge.
An Austin Markel home run in the bottom of the fourth brought WVU within two runs at 7-5 through four innings.
Boykin led off the sixth with a single and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt where the catcher was covering the base. Some alert base running from Boykin allowed the Scarlet Knight to complete the trek around the bases and cross home with nobody covering the plate.
Rutgers starter Casey Gaynor (Toms River, N.J.) worked six strong innings before handing the ball over to reliever Jason Downey (Ballston Lake, N.Y.) to start the seventh.
Doubles from Dan DiBartolomeo and Grant Buckner sandwiched around a walk brought in a run in the seventh but the Mountaineers’ attempt to bring a second run home on the latter double was thwarted on a well-executed relay from recently-inserted center fielder Luis Feliz (New Brunswick, N.J.) to the shortstop Betteridge, who gunned down the runner at the plate.
RU got that run back thanks to an RBI triple to the gap in left-center field from Brandon Boykin (Teaneck, N.J.) and added three more in the eighth to extend the lead to 12-6. A well-executed safety squeeze play from Michael Lang (Dumont, N.J.) to allow Boykin to slide home from third under the tag got the second run home. Jimenez then stepped in for the second time in the game with the bases loaded and greeted new pitcher Jonathan Jones with a two-run single to center field.
West Virginia got a run back in the eighth and threatened for more with the bases loaded and its top slugger DiBartolomeo up, but Downey got the Mountaineer to pop out to end the inning.
Gaynor was solid with five strikeouts and just two earned runs (five total) to pick up his second win of the season, while Pickering (2-2) was saddled with the loss after yielding five runs on five hits in just 2.2 innings. Closer Ryan Beard (Point Pleasant, N.J.) followed Downey’s two innings of middle relief with a perfect ninth.
Boykin collected three hits on the afternoon to lead the Scarlet Knights’ 12-hit attack.
Rutgers and West Virginia will close the series with a noon game Sunday at Hawley Field in West Virginia.