PITTSBURGH (April 20, 2013) – Playing in its fifth doubleheader of the season, Rutgers baseball came up short by the scores of 14-5 and 9-4 to drop both ends at No. 25 Pittsburgh Saturday at Cost Field. Senior Steve Zavala (Randolph, N.J.) and sophomore Vinny Zarrillo (Forked River, N.J.) led the Scarlet Knights offensively with four hits each on the day.
RU finishes the day at 18-18 overall and 8-6 in the BIG EAST, while Pitt improved 29-10 and 8-3.
Zarrillo had three hits and Zavala had a three-run home run, but Pittsburgh scored seven runs in the sixth on the way to a 14-5 victory in the opener.
Senior Rob Smorol (Clark, N.J.) (4-3) took the loss in 5.2 innings on the mound for the Scarlet Knights. The left-hander picked up six strikeouts to move his career total to 187, third-most in school history.
Rutgers jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a two-out RBI single up the middle by Zarrillo. Junior Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.) singled through the left side with one out and moved into scoring position on a groundout to setup Zarrillo, who connected on an 0-2 pitch to reach base safely in his first at bat for the fifth straight game.
Smorol lost the strike zone in the second inning and walked in a run with the bases loaded to tie the score at one. However, the left-hander rebounded and sat down the next two hitters to escape the jam with limited damage. Then in the third, Pittsburgh rallied for three runs to stretch their lead to 4-1. Elvin Soto had a two-run double up the middle to highlight the inning.
The Scarlet Knights cut one off the deficit on a sacrifice fly by senior Charlie Law (Mainland, N.J.) to score classmate Jeff Melillo (Annandale, N.J.) in the fourth. It was the 12th time in 13 games the first baseman recorded an RBI to bring his total to a team-leading 30.
RU threatened with two on and one out in the sixth, but Pitt turned a 6-4-3 double play to escape the jam with the two-run lead. Then in the bottom of the frame, the hosts opened up the game with seven runs, all unearned, to expand the game to 11-2. The big hit was a grand slam by Soto with two down.
Zavala connected for his fourth home run of the season to right field in the eighth to bring home three. Playing in his 150th career game, the veteran reached base safely in three of four plate appearances.
Ethan Mildren (7-2) earned the win after giving up just one earned run over seven innings for Pitt. The Rutgers pitching staff was harmed by seven walks and three hit batters.
The Panthers scored in each of the first three frames and Steven Shelinsky Jr. hit a grand slam in the sixth to take the nightcap, 9-3. Redshirt freshman John Jennings (Berkeley Heights, N.J.) had his first career multiple-hit game from the nine spot in the batting order, while junior Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) scored three times on two hits. All nine RU starters collected at least one base knock in the 12-hit attack.
Senior Tyler Gebler (Toms River, N.J.) (3-5) took the loss in his 10th start of the year, with classmate Rob Corsi (Oceanport, N.J.) tied a season high with 4.1 innings in relief on the mound. Corsi recorded four strikeouts in the outing.
Pittsburgh scored in its first at bat on a sacrifice fly by Shelinsky, but RU answered with a run in the top of the second. Law singled with one out and was forced out to bring up senior Bill Hoermann (Toms River, N.J.), who walked to put two on. Then Jennings offered at the first pitch and roped an RBI double to right-center to even the game.
Pitt retook the lead with a pair of two-out hits in the second to make it 3-1. The Scarlet Knights cut into the deficit when Favatella doubled and came home two batters later on an RBI groundout by Melillo. However, the hosts got that run back in the bottom of the inning with two more two-out hits to push the score to 5-2.
The Scarlet Knights manufactured another run in the fourth on an RBI groundout by Tietz. O’Grady and Hoermann both singled to start the inning. In the middle innings, Corsi retired the first seven batters he faced to keep RU within striking distance until Shelinsky stepped up with the bases loaded in the sixth and struck a grand slam to extend it to 9-3.
Freshman Corey Lerche (West Nyack, N.Y.) picked up his second career RBI on a ground ball to score O’Grady in the eighth. The center fielder had registered his 11th double of the season to start the inning.
Matt Wotherspoon (6-1) earned the win with seven innings pitched for Pittsburgh.
Rutgers will look to avoid the series sweep in the finale Sunday at noon. Law will make the start on the mound for the Scarlet Knights.