PITTSBURGH (April 21, 2013) – Stephen Vranka connected for a three-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth to help No. 25 Pittsburgh down Rutgers baseball, 6-3, in the series finale Sunday at Cost Field. The Panthers won all three games in the set.
Senior Charlie Law (Mainland, N.J.) (3-4) took a hard-luck defeat on the mound for the Scarlet Knights (18-19, 8-7 BIG EAST) after pitching a career-high 8.1 innings with five strikeouts. The right-hander tossed 129 pitches in his 10th start of the season.
Senior Bill Hoermann (Toms River, N.J.), junior Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.) and senior Jeff Melillo (Annandale, N.J.) all notched two hits to lead RU offensively.
With the score knotted at three in the bottom of the ninth, Law retired the first batter before giving up a double to Sam Parente. RU next made a pitching change to freshman Howie Brey (Middletown, N.J.), who gave up a single to put runners at the corners. The next hitter lined out for the second out, but Vranka struck a 2-1 pitch over the high wall in left to plate the winning runs.
Joe Harvey (1-1) earned the win with two innings of relief for Pittsburgh (29-10, 9-3 BIG EAST), while starter Casey Roche worked seven innings for a no-decision.
The game started off as a pitcher’s duel between Law and Roche, with neither side scoring until the Panthers registered three in the bottom of the sixth. However, Rutgers rallied for three of its own in the eighth to tie the game.
The RU rally started when redshirt freshman John Jennings (Berkeley Heights, N.J.) worked a walk and was pinch run for by junior Pat Sweeney (Sparta, N.J.). Freshman Matt Tietz (West Milford, N.J.) then followed with a ringing double into the left field corner to put two on with no outs. Next, a wild pitch went back to the screen to allow Sweeney to score and Favatella added an RBI single to make it 3-2. Rutgers executed a perfect hit and run to keep It going, with Favatella going in motion to open up the left side and sophomore Vinny Zarrillo (Forked River, N.J.) chopped a single in that direction to put runners at the corners. Melillo tied the score with an RBI grounder up the middle that went for an error. However, Harvey buckled down and retired the next three on strikeouts to strand the go-ahead runs on base.
RU put a runner in scoring position in the top of the ninth with one out, but could not convert to take the lead. That setup Pittsburgh’s rally in the bottom of the inning.
The Scarlet Knights return to action Tuesday for a 3:30 p.m. game at Delaware before hosting Wagner at Bainton Field Wednesday at 3 p.m. The next BIG EAST series will start May 3 at home against Connecticut.