CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 17, 2012) – Rutgers University baseball threatened late, but could not overcome five errors as No. 13 Miami downed the Scarlet Knights, 6-2, in the season opener for both teams at Alex Rodriguez Park on Friday evening. RU falls to 11-18 in openers in the Fred Hill era.
Trailing 5-0 in the top of the eighth inning, Rutgers (0-1) put together a rally after sophomore Pat Sweeney (Sparta, N.J.) drew a walk and classmate Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) singled against Miami reliever Javi Salas. Following a groundout that advanced the runners to second and third, sophomore Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.) delivered a two-run single up the middle to knock in both Sweeney and O’Grady to provide the only scoring of the night for the Scarlet Knights.
RU put two runners on base in the ninth, but could not bring the tying run to the plate as Eric Nedeljkovic shut the door to close out the win for Miami (1-0).
Junior left-hander Rob Smorol (Clark, N.J.) (0-1) earned the start on the mound for the Scarlet Knights, coming out sharp with four strikeouts through two perfect innings of work. However, the Hurricanes broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the third after Brad Fieger was hit by a pitch and came around to score on a wild pitch with two outs. UM added an unearned run later that inning after an error.
Smorol surrendered another run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly, but avoided further trouble to keep Rutgers within striking distance. He left the game after four innings of work, allowing four hits, two earned runs and one walk, while striking out six batters.
Senior Willie Beard (Spotswood, N.J.) was effective in relief for RU in the sixth and seventh innings, pitching 1.2 hitless frames with three strikeouts.
Offensively, Rutgers’ bats were quieted by Miami starter Eric Erickson (1-0) through six innings. The left-hander did not allow a runner to reach third base and struck out seven to earn the win.
Sweeney picked up two of the Scarlet Knights’ seven hits, while senior Jeff Melillo (Annandale, N.J.) provided the only extra base hit on a fourth inning double. Melillo also caught two runners stealing from his catcher position.
Rutgers will look to even the series on Saturday night at 7 p.m. as senior Ryan Fasano (Stony Point, N.Y.) will start on the mound against Eric Whaley of Miami.
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