PISCATAWAY, N.J. (April 2, 2013) – Senior Jeff Melillo (Annandale, N.J.) went 4-for-4 with two home runs and five RBIs to help Rutgers baseball past Columbia, 15-6, in its home opener at Bainton Field Tuesday. The offense slugged out a season-high 17 hits on the chilly afternoon and the bullpen allowed just one earned run over 5.2 innings to give RU a win for the ninth time in 12 games.
The Scarlet Knights (12-12) improved to .500 for the first time this season and are 6-1 in openers at Bainton Field since FieldTurf was installed for the 2007 season. Columbia, a member of the Ivy League, dropped to 9-15.
Melillo reached four hits in a game for the second time in his career and set a new personal-best with the five RBIs. He now has seven career home runs, as he also caught two runners stealing from behind the plate. The veteran has started all but one game at catcher this season.
Sophomore Vinny Zarrillo (Forked River, N.J.) kept his hot bat with three more hits, coming a home run shy of the cycle. The outfielder notched three RBIs out of the cleanup spot and is hitting 10-for-18 (.556) over his last four games.
Having two each hits, freshman Matt Tietz (West Milford, N.J.), junior Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) and senior Charlie Law (Mainland, N.J.) contributed to the attack that saw RU scored in six different innings. The bats have registered 33 hits in the last two games.
Senior Nathaniel Roe (Plainfield, N.J.) (1-1) pitched an effective 2.2 innings out of the bullpen to earn the win on the mound. Stranding two runners upon taking the field, the right-hander gave up just one run to pick up his first victory since April 3, 2011 against Seton Hall. Sophomore Jon Young (Old Bridge, N.J.) and senior Sam Hasty (Brooklyn, N.Y.) did not allow an earned run over the last three innings.
After Nick Ferraresi connected for a two-run home run to put Columbia up in the top of the first, Rutgers responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning. It was the first of four rallies of three runs. Tietz and O’Grady reached to bring Zarrillo up to the plate with one out, as he laced a two-run triple to the wall in right-center to immediately tie the score. Then Melillo followed with an opposite field single to plate Zarrillo for the go-ahead run.
The lead grew to 4-2 in the second after junior Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.) singled to score Tietz, who had doubled down the left field line previously.
RU distanced the game with another three runs scored in the third inning, with Melillo hitting a leadoff homer to left. Later in the rally, junior Pat Sweeney (Sparta, N.J.) delivered a ground-rule double to chase home Law. Senior Bill Hoermann (Toms River, N.J.) additionally scored on a wild pitch later on.
Logan Boyher sent a two-run homer in the Columbia fourth to make it 7-4, but the Scarlet Knights responded with another three runs in the bottom half. O’Grady and Zarrillo reached and came home after Melillo singled and the ball was misplayed in the outfield. Senior Steve Zavala (Randolph, N.J) added a sacrifice fly.
Columbia tacked on one in the fifth and Rutgers tallied three in the sixth to bring the count to 13-5. O’Grady singled and scored from first on a double by Zarrillo on a hit-and-run play. Melillo followed with his second homer of the day on a 2-2 pitch, a high drive that found the parking lot beyond left field.
The final rally in the eighth started when freshman R.J. Devish (Beachwood, N.J.) collected his first career hit and scored on a single by Law. Redshirt freshman John Jennings (Berkeley Heights, N.J.) notched his first collegiate RBI on a fielder’s choice groundout as well.
Joey Gandolfo (0-2) took the loss for the Lions.
RU will stay at home to take on Iona Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. Senior Pat O’Leary (Sparta, N.J.) is scheduled to make his first start on the mound this season.
O’Grady is now on a 13-game hitting streak … RU avenged a 7-6 loss to the Lions last season … Favatella recorded his team-leading sixth stolen base … Slater McCue made his third start of the season, going 3.1 innings with three strikeouts … 19 Scarlet Knights saw action … temperatures were in the low 40s and high 30s during the game.