With the game knotted at 2-2, Vanderbilt used a bloop single and a pair of intentional walks to load the bases with one out against Lillis, who entered the game in the seventh and fired four shutout frames into the 12th inning. Lillis fell behind Worth Scott, 3-1, before yielding a crisp single to right field to end the game.
RU scored first, opening a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning. Cleanup hitter Vinny Esposito (Middletown, NJ) tucked a double inside the third base bag to open the inning and moved to third on a perfectly-executed sacrifice bunt by Matt Wolski (Hamilton, NJ). Senior Steve Normane (Pt. Pleasant, NJ) then grounded to short, allowing Esposito to cross home with RU’s first lead of the 2003 season.
The Scarlet Knights threatened in the third, putting runners on first and second with two outs, but failed to score and did so again in the fourth, when Esposito led off with another double but was stranded at third. RU starter Jack Egbert (Rutherford, NJ), meanwhile, avoided serious danger in the opening innings, despite allowing two-out base runners in the first, second, fourth and fifth innings.
The Commodores rallied in the sixth, plating two runs for a 2-1 lead. Cesar Nicolas opened the inning with a single and, after a sacrifice moved him to second, Tony Mansolino sent a line drive into left. Leon Shade (Montclair, NJ) tracked the ball as it hooked toward the left-field line and appeared to make the catch, before colliding with the outfield wall’s unique configuration, which jarred the ball loose and allowed Nicolas to score. Shade proceeded to leave the game and two batters later, Warner Jones singled to left, plating Mansolino for a 2-1 lead. In the seventh, Vandy loaded the bases with two outs, but freshman Chris Lillis (Fair Haven, NJ) induced a groundout to end the threat and pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
Red Bank native Jeff Sues pitched the eighth for VU, but ran into trouble in the ninth when Matt Wolski (Hamilton, NJ) led off with a single to center. Normane then sacrificed pinch-runner Mike Biondi (Pompton Plains, NJ) into scoring position and Defendis delivered him with a two-out single to center, his first collegiate hit. He then shut down the Scarlet Knights over the next three innings to earn the win.
Egbert worked 6.1 innings, allowing seven hits and two runs, both earned. He walked three, one intentionally, and struck out three. Lillis (0-1) allowed three hits and one run in 4.2 innings, walking three. RU mustered seven hits, led by Esposito’s two doubles and a pair of singles from Grover.
Today’s game with Vanderbilt was Rutgers’ first game vs. an SEC team since meeting Auburn twice in the 1998 NCAA Tournament – a 17-15 win and a 7-4 loss.
The Scarlet Knights return to action at 2:00 tomorrow, when they travel 30 miles east to Murfreesboro, TN to face Middle Tennessee in the second game of the Music City Classic. BOX SCORE