PISCATAWAY, N.J. (May 19, 2012) – Trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning, Rutgers University baseball rallied for 10 runs on seven hits in the frame to pull past Villanova University, 10-8, in the regular season finale on Saturday at Bainton Field. The win completed the first three-game sweep over the Wildcats for the Scarlet Knights since 1999.
RU capped the regular season at 31-23 and 16-11 in the BIG EAST, while Villanova dropped to 28-27 and 10-17. Rutgers will next face state rival Seton Hall in the first round of the BIG EAST Championships on Wednesday, May 23 at 10 a.m.
After being shutout by Villanova starter Max Almonte for the first six innings, Rutgers strung together its biggest rally of the season with 10 runs and seven hits, sending 15 batters to the plate. Junior Patrick Kivlehan (West Nyack, N.Y.) took a breaking ball off his shoulder to start the proceedings, moving to second when junior Steve Zavala (Randolph, N.J.) reached on an error. After a strikeout, sophomore Michael Zavala (Randolph, N.J.) laced a single through the right side to score Kivlehan for the first run of the inning, sending Almonte out of the game in favor of the bullpen. Junior Bill Hoermann (Toms River, N.J.) greeted reliever Matt Meurer with a hard shot up the middle that brought in Steve Zavala and advanced Michael Zavala to third, making the score 3-2.
Freshman Vinny Zarrillo (Forked River, N.J.) had the tying hit, as he roped a ball to left field against the left-hander, bringing home Michael Zavala. Next up, sophomore Pat Sweeney (Sparta, N.J.) came through with the fourth-straight RBI single, as he hit a ball into centerfield to plate freshman pinch runner Matt Ackerman (Sparta, N.J.), giving Rutgers its first lead of the game.
The rally continued for the Scarlet Knights following a walk drawn by sophomore Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) to load the bases and force another VU pitching change. Sophomore Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.) then lined a single to right-center to score a pair to up the advantage to 6-3. Kivlehan got in on the action once again, this time connecting for an RBI single to score O’Grady. Another Wildcat pitching change followed, as Kivlehan swiped second to put runners on second and third. Steve Zavala lifted a fly ball deep enough into centerfield to score Favatella for the eighth run. Junior Charlie Law (Mainland, N.J.) subsequently was intentionally walked, bringing on the fourth Villanova pitching change of the half inning.
Michael Zavala capped the outburst with a two-run triple to right-center for his second and third RBIs of the inning, scoring Kivlehan for the second time and Law. A hit by pitch to Ackerman and a groundout rounded up the plate appearance for RU, as a season-high 15 batters stepped to the plate to make the count 10-3 in favor of the home team.
Villanova did not back down in the top of the eight, responding with five runs to cut the deficit to three. However, junior Jerry Elsing (Montville, N.J.) came in with one out and one on base to retire the next two hitters, ending the threat.
The right-hander allowed a single in the ninth, but sat down the next three to earn his first save of the season and seventh of his career.
Senior Ryan Fasano (Stony Point, N.Y.) earned the win after pitching seven innings, with only three earned runs and eight hits allowed. The right-hander struck out four in his final career start at Bainton Field.
Meurer (3-2) took the loss for the Wildcats, which were eliminated from a postseason berth with the loss. Almonte struck out four and gave up just two earned runs in the start. Villanova scored single runs in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings to jump out on top for the first time in the series.
Rutgers had 10 hits in the game, with seven coming in the seventh inning. Favatella and Michael Zavala each recorded multiple-hit games, as Zavala had a game-high three RBIs.
It was the fourth sweep this season for RU and third against a BIG EAST opponent.
Prior to the game, head coach Fred Hill and the program honored five departing players in a special pregame ceremony on the field; Willie Beard (Milltown, N.J.), Fasano, Russ Hopkins (Piscataway, N.J.), Kivlehan and Dan Perrine (Scotch Plains, N.J.).
The Scarlet Knights will next travel to Clearwater, Fla., to participate in the 2012 BIG EAST Championships at Bright House Field on Wednesday, May 23 at 10 a.m. against state rival Seton Hall. RU took two of three in the series held at Owen T. Carroll Field in the first conference weekend earlier this season.
Kivlehan clinched the BIG EAST batting title (.399) and the first league triple crown in history (.402, 10, 36) … the most runs previously scored in an inning this season was eight against Fordham (4/21) … Kivlehan has reached base safely in the last 26 games … RU wrapped up the home scheduled at 14-6 … Fasano finished at 5-2 in the conference … all nine spots in the batting order scored in the seventh inning … RU had its most conference wins since 2007 (20) … the game was played on a 75-degree, sunny afternoon.
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