PISCATAWAY, N.J. (March 26, 2011) – The Rutgers baseball team took a 2-1 lead over Louisville to the seventh, but the Cardinals (15-7, 2-0 BIG EAST) scored the final seven runs of the contest en route to an 9-2 victory over the Scarlet Knights (7-13, 0-2 BIG EAST) Saturday afternoon at Bainton Field.
Rutgers sophomore starter Rob Smorol (Clark, N.J.) and Louisville’s Justin Amlung battled toe-to-toe with three scoreless frames apiece to open the contest. Smorol retired nine of the first 11 batters he faced in the contest for the Scarlet Knights.
The Cardinals’ Ryan Wright was the first to break through against Smorol and provided the game’s first offensive burst as he took the second pitch of the fourth inning over the left-field fence for a solo home run to give Louisville a 1-0 advantage.
That lead didn’t last long, however. Sophomore Steve Zavala (Randolph, N.J.) opened the bottom half of the fourth with a double to the gap in left-center field and later moved to third on a wild pitch with two outs. Leadoff hitter Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) got him home with a ground ball to the right side that the freshman beat out to earn an infield hit and drive home the run.
The Scarlet Knights took their first lead in the series with a score one inning later. Senior Michael Lang (Dumont, N.J.) reached base on an error and swiped second base to move into scoring position without an out recorded in the frame. One out later, freshman Michael Zavala (Randolph, N.J.) took Amlung’s 0-2 offering back up the middle for an RBI single to bring home Lang for the go-ahead score.
The Scarlet Knights held the one-run advantage through six innings.
With runners on first and second and one out in the seventh, Louisville went to its bench for pinch hitter Kyle Grieshaber and the sophomore hit a ground ball deep in the hole on the left side. The ball was corralled by the shortstop but the throw to get the lead runner on third got away into the Cardinals’ dugout, allowing a run to come in and put runners on second and third. The Scarlet Knights made their first call to the bullpen for Joe Esposito (Metuchen, N.J.). The freshman’s first hitter, Wright, drove a ball back up the middle to bring in both runners and Cardinal cleanup hitter Stewart Ijames followed with a two-run home run over the right-field fence as Louisville surged out to a 6-2 advantage.
Wright tripled home two runs in the ninth off RU reliever Jerry Elsing (Montville, N.J.) to give him five RBI for the contest and later scored himself as UofL ballooned its lead to 9-2.
Smorol (1-4) worked 6.1 innings with four strikeouts and four runs allowed on five hits in the loss. Amlung (5-0) posted seven strikeouts in six innings and surrendered just one earned run on seven hits to pick up the win. Derek Self (1) came in for the Cardinal starter to open the seventh and recorded the three-inning save.
O’Grady led the Scarlet Knights’ nine-hit attack with a 3-for-4 day at the plate and an RBI. It was his second three-hit performance in three games at Bainton Field this season. The freshman also collected three hits against NJIT earlier in the month.
The Scarlet Knights and Cardinals will close the three-game series with a noon contest Sunday at Bainton Field. Junior righty Nathaniel Roe (Plainfield, N.J.) will be on the mound for RU against sophomore righty Mike Nastold for UofL.