LOUISVILLE, Ky. (March 23, 2013) – Led by a strong pitching effort on three days' rest by senior Charlie Law (Mainland, N.J.) and three RBI singles by classmate Steve Zavala (Randolph, N.J.), Rutgers baseball defeated No. 4 Louisville, 7-3, to clinch a series win in the nightcap of a doubleheader at Patterson Stadium Saturday. It was the first series win over a ranked team for head coach Fred Hill and the Scarlet Knights since taking two-of-three versus No. 24 Pittsburgh in April 2010.
The teams played a twin bill Saturday due to impending inclement weather in the local area, with the Cardinals taking the opener, 4-0. RU ends the day at 8-11 overall and 2-1 in the BIG EAST, while UofL is now 19-4 and 1-2 after the first weekend of conference play.
Law (1-2) picked up his first win as a starter since March 28, 2009 by working a career-long eight innings on the mound against a potent Louisville lineup. Short rest did not prove to be an issue for the right-hander, who allowed six hits, two runs (one earned) and struck out three in the 113-pitch outing. He induced eight groundouts and seven fly outs.
Law was also a force at the plate, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs. As a team, the Scarlet Knights totaled 10 hits, with Zavala (three RBIs) and senior Jeff Melillo (Annandale, N.J.) (three runs) both going 3-for-3 from the fifth and sixth slots in the order.
RU broke through first with a pair of runs off UofL starter Jared Ruxer in the second inning. Sophomore Vinny Zarrillo (Forked River, N.J.) singled to start the rally and moved up to second when Melillo was hit by a pitch. Zavala followed with a sacrifice bunt to advance both runners into scoring position with one out. Then a wild pitch allowed Zarrillo to score and Law lined a single immediately after through the left side to plate Melillo. Rutgers is now 6-2 when scoring first in a ballgame.
The Cardinals, who had won nine straight games coming into the series, rallied to tie the game in the third. Sutton Whiting doubled to start off and scored on an errant throw to third on a bunt. The second run of the frame was unearned on an RBI groundout by Ty Young.
The game would not stay tied for long, as Rutgers answered with two more runs in the fourth. Junior Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) worked a walk to leadoff and moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Zarrillo. Melillo then roped a ball inside third base and into the corner for an RBI double, giving the Scarlet Knights a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the day. Melillo came around right away on Zavala’s first RBI single.
A pair of insurance runs were added in the sixth to stretch the advantage to four runs over the home-standing Cardinals. O’Grady started it off again, this time connecting for a single and advancing on another Zarrillo sacrifice bunt. Melillo connected for a single to right-center to put runners at the corners, with Zavala cashing in with a base hit off a left-handed pitcher for another RBI.
Louisville threatened to cut into the 6-2 RU advantage in the bottom of the sixth after putting runners at the corners with no outs. However, on a fly out to Zavala in right field, the runner at third left too early and the Scarlet Knights appealed successfully for a double play. Adding in three double plays on the ground, Law was helped with a total of four twin-killings in his start to work deep into the game.
The seventh Rutgers run was added in the eighth when Zavala drove in Zarrillo on his third and final RBI hit. He is tied with Law for the team lead with 11 RBIs this season.
Freshman Howie Brey (Middletown, N.J.) allowed one run in the ninth, but navigated through the order to close out the win in his eight appearance of the season. It was the first series win for Rutgers over Louisville, beating them as the fourth-ranked team in the latest Baseball America poll.
Ruxer (0-1) suffered the loss after permitting four runs in 3.1 innings on the mound. UofL collected seven hits from seven different players at the plate.
The Cardinals broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the seventh when Ty Young tripled and scored two batters later on a two-out RBI single by Cole Sturgeon. UofL added three insurance runs in the eighth to pull away for a 4-0 victory in the opener of the doubleheader.
Senior Tyler Gebler (Toms River, N.J.) (1-3) allowed just one run and four hits over 6.2 innings, but suffered a hard-luck loss in his first BIG EAST start of the year. He did not permit a hit until the fourth and faced just one batter over the minimum through six.
Louisville starter Jeff Thompson gave up one hit in 6.1 innings for a no-decision, while Kyle McGrath (4-0) picked up the win with one scoreless inning of relief. Nick Burdi had five strikeouts over the last 1.2 innings to earn his fifth save for the Cardinals.
Wrapping up its spring break trip at 5-2, Rutgers will next return to New Jersey to take on Rider on the road Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. The next BIG EAST series will be at Villanova, starting Thursday, March 28.