TAMPA, Fla. (May 17, 2013) – Rutgers rallied back from an early deficit of 3-0 and tied the game in the ninth down one, but USF scored on a fielder’s choice to walk-off with a 6-5 victory Friday at USF Baseball Stadium. With the result, the Bulls clinch the series.
Down 5-4 in the top of the ninth, the Scarlet Knights (25-28, 13-10 BIG EAST) battled back to tie the game off closer Chad Taylor. Sophomore Vinny Zarrillo (Forked River, N.J.) singled through the left side to start it off, moving up two batters later on a walk drawn by senior Steve Zavala (Randolph, N.J.). Then with two on and one out, senior Charlie Law (Mainland, N.J.) looped a single into short centerfield to load the bases. Junior Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) next stepped up and recorded a sacrifice fly to center to score junior pinch runner Pat Sweeney (Sparta, N.J.).
However, Nik Alonso led off the bottom of the ninth with a double to left field to put the pressure on. After he advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt, RU elected to intentionally walk the next two batters to load the bases and setup a force play everywhere. It did not work out, as James Ramsay softly grounded a ball to shortstop that could not be converted into a double play up the middle, allowing the go-ahead tally to come across.
Taylor (2-0) picked up the win despite the blown save by stranding two runners on in the ninth after the tying run scored. Senior Tyler Gebler (Toms River, N.J.) (3-6) suffered his first loss out of the bullpen this season.
Sophomore Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.) led all players in the game with three hits, while senior Jeff Melillo (Annandale, N.J.) connected for his fifth home run of the season. The Scarlet Knights were doomed by 12 runners left on base in the contest.
The game started out in similar fashion to Thursday, as USF (35-19, 17-6 BIG EAST) jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning. Law, making his 14th start, put that behind him quickly on the mound and did not allow another run to score until the sixth. He struck out four in the outing to bump his total to 73 on the season, tied for third-most in a single campaign in RU history.
Rutgers rallied back in the fifth on a two-run home run by Melillo to left field with Zarrillo aboard. He now has nine career dingers. Then in the sixth, RU took its first lead of the series with a pair of runs. O’Grady reached second on a dropped pop fly and moved up on a sacrifice bunt by senior Bill Hoermann (Toms River, N.J.). Redshirt freshman John Jennings (Berkeley Heights, N.J.) proceeded to strikeout, but the last strike went to the backstop to permit him to reach and O’Grady to score, unearned. The inning continued on a single by freshman Matt Tietz (West Milford, N.J.), with Favatella following with a sharp RBI single to plate Jennings.
That lead did not last for long, as Zac Gilcrease laced a two-run double to put the hosts up 5-4 through six. Freshman Howie Brey (Middletown, N.J.) entered after that and retired the side to strand an inherited runner. The left-hander sat down three of the four batters he faced.
The game stayed that way until the ninth when RU rallied for the tying score, but USF responded with the game-winner.
Rutgers will wrap up the regular season and series with the finale Saturday at 1 p.m. Senior Rob Corsi (Oceanport, N.J.) will take the ball for the Scarlet Knights hoping to avert a sweep.