CLEARWATER, Fla. (May 26, 2010) – The Rutgers baseball team scored nine runs in the first two innings and never looked back as the sixth-seeded Scarlet Knights upended third-seeded Pittsburgh, 9-5, Wednesday morning in the opening round of the BIG EAST Baseball Championship at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla.
Rutgers advances to face No. 2 seed Connecticut Thursday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. The Huskies defeated No. 7 seed Cincinnati, 9-6.
The victory improved the Scarlet Knights to 29-24 overall and marked their fifth-straight victory in the BIG EAST Championship. RU won four consecutive games to capture the 2007 league tournament title in their last postseason appearance.
Sophomore Russ Hopkins (Piscataway, N.J.) reached base all five times and collected three hits, including a pair of doubles, to guide Rutgers’ 18-hit attack against Pitt.
Rutgers surged out to a commanding lead as the Scarlet Knights used a two-out rally to plate four runs in the first. RU strung together six hits all with two outs to jump out to the early lead. Pitt starter issued junior Pat Biserta (Pt. Pleasant, N.J.) a five-pitch walk to set up the first run of the frame as Hopkins followed a Jaren Matthews (Teaneck, N.J.) singled with a two-run double down the right field line to push across the first two runs. Sophomore Ryan Kapp (Toms River, N.J.) singled home Hopkins on the next play and Jarred Jimenez (Monroe, N.J.) followed a Jayson Hernandez (Belmar, N.J.) single with an RBI single back up the middle to score Kapp for the final run of the inning.
Following a 1-2-3 inning for starter Casey Gaynor (Toms River, N.J.), Rutgers went back on the offensive, scoring five runs in the second frame to open a 9-0 advantage. Lang got things started with a one-out infield single and Biserta drilled a ball back up the middle. The center field had trouble corralling Biserta’s ball, allowing Lang to come all the way around and score from first on the play. Nyisztor then found the gap in right-center field for a triple to bring home Biserta before the Scarlet Knight scored himself on a sacrifice fly from Matthews. Hernandez followed Hopkins and Kapp singles with an RBI single to left field to bring home the fourth run of the inning. The Scarlet Knights plated a fifth run when Hernandez got caught between first and second on a steal attempt with two outs and was eventually tagged out but not before Kapp raced home from third for the score.
With a nine-run cushion, Gaynor continued to hold the Panthers at bay, allowing just one hit through four scoreless innings. He ran into trouble in the fifth as Pitt loaded the bases without recording an out in the frame. The veteran got two quick outs on a fly out and a strikeout and was one strike away from getting out of the inning unscathed with an 0-2 count to nine-spot hitter Zach Duggan, but the Panther singled to left field to bring in a pair of runs.
Pitt (37-17) opened the sixth with three-straight hits, capped by a two-run single back up the middle from Joe Leonard. The Panthers got one more run home in the frame on a Cory Brownsten RBI single to left field to cut the Rutgers lead to 9-5.
Gaynor rebounded with a scoreless seventh and handed the ball over to the bullpen as reliever Nate Roe (Plainfield, N.J.) and closer Tyler Gebler (Toms River, N.J.) worked shutout eighth and ninth innings, respectively to seal the win.
Gaynor improved to 8-5 and posted his seventh win in his last 10 starts with a strikeout in seven innings of work. Gaynor, who made his school-record 52nd career start, extended his school-record career innings mark to 317.0 and pulled within eight strikeouts of Bobby Brownlie’s school-record career strikeout total of 235. Gaynor’s eighth win this season tied him for sixth on the Rutgers single-season wins list.
RU handed Baker (11-3) just his third loss of the season as the Panther hurler surrendered nine runs on 16 hits in 130 pitches in six innings of work.
The Scarlet Knights improved to 3-1 against the Panthers this season with the win and Gaynor picked up his second victory over Pitt in 2010. He pitched a complete game to lead RU to a 6-1 win over Pitt in April in Piscataway.