PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Redshirt freshman Willie Beard (Spotswood, N.J.) pitched a career-long 7.1 innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts to give Rutgers a 3-1 victory over Seton Hall in game one, before Keith Cantwell overshadowed a strong pitching performance by Casey Gaynor (Toms River, N.J.) with a complete-game, 10-strikeout effort to give the Pirates a 3-2 victory over the Scarlet Knights in game two of a Saturday baseball doubleheader in front of a season-high crowd of 541 fans at Bainton Field.
The doubleheader split moved RU to 20-29 overall and 6-17 in the BIG EAST, eliminating the Scarlet Knights from postseason contention. SHU moved to 22-22 overall and 11-12 in the conference.
In the first of two pitcher’s duels, Beard out-worked Seton Hall ace Sean Black to notch his first BIG EAST victory with a stellar 99-pitch outing. After giving up a run on an RBI double to Chris Affinito in the opening frame, Beard retired the next seven batters and cruised into the eighth where he handed the ball over to reliever Kevin Lillis (Fair Haven, N.J.) with a 2-1lead.
RU got both of its runs in the second as Jaren Matthews (Teaneck, N.J.) doubled and Jarred Jimenez (Monroe, N.J.) walked and, following a balk, Matthews scored on a groundout and Jimenez got home on a wild pitch.
Lillis entered with one out in the eighth following an A.J. Rusbarsky double. The Pirates got the tying run on third on a wild pitch, but the reliever held him there with a strikeout and a line-out to the shortstop to end the inning.
Sophomore Pat Biserta (Point Pleasant, N.J.) gave the Scarlet Knights an insurance run with a solo home run – his fifth of the season – in the eighth to make it 3-1 and closer Ryan Beard (Point Pleasant, N.J.) sealed it with a scoreless ninth for his seventh save of the year.
Willie Beard improved to 3-4 with the strong performance on the mound, while Black fell to 4-6 after surrendering three runs on six hits in the complete-game, seven-strikeout effort for the Pirates.
Game one was also highlighted by a pair of stellar defensive plays, including a diving catch from right-fielder Michael Lang (Dumont, N.J.) and a tough catch by third baseman D.J. Anderson (Randolph, N.J.) on a sharply-hit line drive.
In classic duel between a pair of Jersey shore pitchers, Cantwell (a product of Tinton Falls) recorded a complete-game, surrendering just two runs and striking out 10 to out-duel Gaynor (a product of Toms River), who yielded just two earned runs (three total) and struck out three in 7.2 innings as SHU escaped with the 3-2 game two victory.
Just like the first game, the outcome was decided in the first two innings as the Pirates followed a two-run Scarlet Knight opening frame with a three-run second inning to provide the final score.
Gaynor got out of a first-inning bases-loaded jam with one out by inducing an inning-ending double play and RU built on that momentum with a two-run bottom half of the first. Biserta found the gap in right-center field for a one-out double and a Matthews walk was followed by a wild pitch to put both runners in scoring position where Jimenez delivered a two-run single to left field to make it 2-0.
The Pirates ended the Scarlet Knights’ momentum in the second, however, plating a pair of runs on a two-out bloop single down the right-field line from Rusbarsky, who advanced to second on a wild throw to the plate on the play. Michael Rogers, who had three hits in the second contest, then found a hole in the right side to plate Rusbarsky on the next play in what proved to be the game-deciding score.
Rutgers’ best chance to tie it up came in the seventh when pinch runner Nick Gaeta (Montville, N.J.) moved to third on a passed ball with one out, but Cantwell registered a pair of strikeouts, painting the outside corner on a 3-2 pitch to lefty pinch hitter Steven Zavala (Randolph, N.J.) before retiring Lang, to end the inning.
Cantwell then struck out the side in the ninth to seal the complete-game victory. He improved to 6-3 with the two runs on six hits in the efficient 107-pitch effort, while Gaynor (2-8) was the hard-luck loser with the two earned runs on eight hits in 7.2 innings.
Game two also saw the relief trio of Jason Downey (Ballston Lake, N.Y.), Dennis Hill (Hillsdale, N.J.) and Ryan Beard combine for 1.1 innings of hitless relief.
Ryan Beard’s save in game one moved him into sole possession of sixth place on the Rutgers single-season saves list with seven and into a tie for sixth place on the school’s career saves list with 10.
Rutgers and Seton Hall will play the rubber game of the three-game series Sunday at 1:00 p.m. at Bainton Field in Piscataway.