MIAMI (Feb. 14, 2014) – Senior Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) went 4-for-5 with a three-run home run and sophomore Howie Brey (Middletown, N.J.) pitched an effective five innings, but Rutgers baseball surrendered five runs in the bottom of the sixth to fall, 7-6, Friday to FIU on Opening Day at FIU Baseball Stadium. The Scarlet Knights out-hit the Panthers, 11-6, in the loss.
It was the sixth straight season RU (0-1) opened the campaign in South Florida, having taken on Miami the prior five seasons to start the year. Rutgers had won the previous three games against the Panthers (1-0) heading into the night.
O’Grady, who set a new career-best with four hits, connected for his fourth collegiate home run in the sixth after singling his first three trips to the plate. Overall, the Scarlet Knights had a hit in seven different innings with eight players recording a knock.
On the mound, Brey worked around early command issues to log five innings with only one hit and two earned runs allowed, leaving in line to win. It was the first career start for the left-hander after leading the staff with 24 relief appearances in 2013.
After putting the pressure on with at least one hit in each of the first four innings, RU broke through with three runs on three hits in the fifth to go up, 3-2. The rally started on a one-out, two-strike single by junior Vinny Zarrillo (Forked River, N.J.), with O’Grady following with a smash through the right side for his third single of the night. Junior Michael Zavala (Randolph, N.J.) next came through with an RBI double down the third base line to score Zarrillo for the first run of the season. Senior Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.) proceeded to ground a ball to shortstop that brought home O’Grady for an RBI, but the throw to first was off line for an error that allowed Zavala to score as well.
The lead was extended to 6-2 in the sixth after O’Grady crushed a two-out, three-run shot off of the light pole in right field. A single by senior Pat Sweeney (Sparta, N.J.) and sophomore R.J. Devish (Beachwood, N.J.) being hit by a pitch triggered the situation.
However, FIU rallied for five runs in the bottom of the sixth on three hits, three walks and a hit pitch to take a 7-6 lead it would not relinquish. The go-ahead score came on a wild pitch.
Senior Charlie Lasky (Freehold, N.J.) suffered his first career loss in his 36th collegiate appearance. Mitchell Davis (1-0) earned the win for FIU with 1.1 innings of scoreless relief, while Mike Gomez earned the save with two perfect frames to close it out.
Game two and three of the four-game series will take place Saturday with a doubleheader starting at 2 p.m. The first game will be nine innings followed by a seven-inning contest. A live stream will provided to follow online.
Favatella has now started the last 146 games consecutively dating back to his freshman season … freshmen Mike Carter (Bloomfield, N.J.) and Tom Marcinczyk (Middlesex, N.J.) became the first true freshmen to start their first career game since Steve Nyisztor did in 2010 … Carter picked up his first career hit on a single in the third inning … RU stole three bases on three attempts, as the team had seven games with at least three steals last year … freshman Max Herrmann (Rutherford, N.J.) pitched two scoreless innings in his RU and collegiate debut … the left-hander redshirted at Rhode Island last season … O’Grady now has 19 career games with at least three hits … his homer tonight was his first away from Bainton Field … FIU attempted a suicide squeeze play in the bottom of the eighth, but the bunt was missed and Zavala made the tag at the plate … Rutgers was doomed by eight walks surrendered and nine runners left on base … the game lasted 3:32 with the game-time temperature at 66 degrees.