RICHMOND, Va. (March 16, 2013) – Freshman Corey Lerche’s (West Nyack, N.Y.) first career hit was a go-ahead solo home run in the top of the 10th inning, propelling Rutgers baseball to a 9-8 win in extra innings over Richmond Saturday at Pitt Field. The victory clinches the Scarlet Knights’ second series win of the season.
Rutgers (5-9) had a season-high three home runs in the game, with juniors Lou Clemente (Union, N.J.) and Pat Sweeney (Sparta, N.J) also hitting their first career long balls. The last five games RU has played in have been decided in the last at bat, with two going into extra frames.
After Rutgers rallied in both the eighth and ninth to force extra innings, Lerche, who entered as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the eighth, led off the top of the 10th by sending a no-doubt shot out of the park to left field. He entered the game 0-for-5 on the season, appearing in four games, but came through with a memorable first hit.
With the lead in hand, senior Rob Corsi (Oceanport, N.J.) (1-3) sat down the Spiders (14-5) in order in the bottom of the 10th to preserve the game and earn his first victory of the season. The veteran left-hander tossed 4.1 innings out of the bullpen, permitting only two hits and one run.
Freshman Matt Tietz (West Milford, N.J.) and sophomore Vinny Zarrillo (Forked River, N.J.) led the offense with three hits each on the day, with both having a tying single in the late innings. Clemente picked up a game-high four RBIs from the seven spot in the order.
Senior Tyler Gebler (Toms River, N.J.) worked 5.2 innings in his fifth start of the season, allowing four earned runs. He did not walk a batter and struck out two in the performance to keep the team in position to win.
After the Spiders struck first for a run in the bottom of the first, Rutgers came back in the second to take the lead. Zarrillo doubled over the first base bag into the corner to start the rally, moving to third on a single up the middle by senior Charlie Law (Mainland, N.J.). Then Clemente stepped up and hammered a 1-2 pitch over the wall in center field for a three-run home run, his first long ball as a Scarlet Knight.
RU tacked on another run on an RBI groundout by Clemente in the third to stretch the advantage to 4-1. With one out, senior Jeff Melillo (Annandale, N.J.) was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on an error. Then following a walk drawn by Law to load the bases, Clemente fought off a tough pitch and rolled over to first for his fourth RBI of the game, scoring Melillo.
In the fourth, Sweeney led off the inning with a high drive to left field for his first career home run to make it 5-1 and force Richmond to turn to the bullpen. Spider starter Aaron Blum lasted three-plus innings with seven hits and five runs allowed.
That lead would not last, however, as Richmond rallied for six runs on six hits to take a 7-5 lead after six innings. The outburst included a three-run homer by Adam Forrer, his second blast of the series.
Down two, RU put together a pair of runs on three hits and an error to even the game in the eighth. Law collected his second hit of the day to start off and moved around to third on a pinch-hit single by junior Ross Costello (Egg Harbor Township, N.J.). Sweeney then grounded into a fielder’s choice to plate Law, moving up to second on an errant relay throw from second base. That extra base proved to be crucial, as Tietz sent a ball up the middle for an RBI single to even the game at seven.
Jansen Fraser put Richmond back on top with a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the eighth, but Corsi prevented further damage by stranding two on base to keep RU within striking distance.
The tying rally in the ninth started with a one-out double by Melillo, who scored one batter later on a single up the middle by Zarrillo off a left-handed pitcher. Corsi pitched a perfect bottom of the ninth to prevent any drama, sending the game to extras.
That setup the heroics from Lerche, who sent a 2-2 pitch into the forest beyond the fence in left field for the go-ahead run. He is the first RU freshman to homer since Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.) did April 6, 2011 versus Columbia.
Dylan Stoops (1-2) suffered the loss for the Spiders, who had six different hitters record two hits in the game.
Rutgers will look to pick up its first sweep of the season Sunday at 1 p.m. Law who struck out 12 in his last start, will be on the mound for the Scarlet Knights.
RU is now 2-4 in one-run games … the team collected 15 hits, the most since having 16 in a win at Old Dominion … Tietz has had a multi-hit game in three of four starts … Melillo has reached safely in all 14 games … Favatella has started the last 101 games dating back to his freshman season … Law and Zarrillo tie for the team lead with five multi-hit games … Gebler has pitched at least five innings in his last 10 starts … Favatella hit a go-ahead home run to win yesterday’s game … RU is 5-3 in the state of Virginia … this is the first-ever series between Richmond and Rutgers … the temperature was in the high 50s with clouds overhead and a slight breeze.