ATLANTA, Ga. – Rutgers used a four-run 11th inning to break a 6-6 tie and sophomore Kevin Lillis (Fair Haven, N.J.) pitched two innings of scoreless relief to give the Scarlet Knights a 10-6 victory over No. 22 and previously unbeaten Georgia Tech Friday afternoon in the series opener at Russ Chandler Stadium.
RU improved to 2-1 on the season with its second-consecutive victory over the Yellow Jackets (defeated GT, 9-5, in the series finale last season), while Georgia Tech fell to 5-1 on the year. The Scarlet Knights countered a game-tying rally from the Yellow Jackets in the ninth to win it in extra innings. It is the second nationally-ranked team in three games (No. 25 Old Dominion last weekend) the Scarlet Knights have defeated on the road this season.
In a game where ace Steve Holt (Toms River, N.J.) saw his first action in nearly two years after recovering from Tommy John surgery, the game was decided in extra innings where Lillis provided the strong pitching to combine with opportunistic hitting in the extra innings to seal the victory for the Scarlet Knights.
Holt was sharp in his first start of the season as he allowed just one earned run (two total) on six hits with three strikeouts in seven innings.
Rutgers jumped out to an early lead with a three-run first inning. Senior Vic Cegles (Phoenix, Ariz.) and junior Tom Edwards (West Caldwell, N.J.) got things started with consecutive one-out singles. Rutgers then executed a double-steal on the next play and Georgia Tech catcher Jason Haniger’s throw to third was off, allowing Cegles to come around to score. Freshman Jaren Matthews (Teaneck, N.J.) then gave Rutgers a three-run cushion with his first career home run. The freshman drilled the first pitch he saw over the fence in right-center field for the two-run shot.
After Georgia Tech got on the board with a run in the bottom of the third, the Scarlet Knights manufactured a run in the top of the fourth to re-assume a three-run advantage. Matthews opened the frame with a single to right field, moved to second on a wild pitch and was sacrificed over to third where sophomore Dan Betteridge (Sewell, N.J.) got him home with an RBI groundout.
Holt ran into trouble in the bottom-half of the fourth when Georgia Tech loaded the bases without recording an out. The veteran hurler surrendered just one run, however, and got out of the inning with the Scarlet Knights holding a 4-2 advantage.
Sophomore Brett Garlick (Livingston, N.J.) reached on an infield error to lead off the fifth, stole second, was sacrificed over to third and came around to score on an RBI single to right field off the bat of Cegles to push the Scarlet Knights’ lead back to three runs at 5-2.
Three scoreless frames sent the Scarlet Knights into the ninth inning with the three-run lead and set up the late-game dramatics. The Scarlet Knights struck first with a run in the top half of the frame when junior Luis Feliz (New Brunswick, N.J.) drilled a double down the left-field line and came around to score on a botched throw from Georgia Tech pitcher Michael Hutts on a sacrifice bunt. The Yellow Jackets, however, mounted a rally against newly-inserted Jason Downey (Ballston Lake, N.J.). With the bases loaded and one out, a Yellow Jacket grounder to second and potential game-ending double-play was avoided by a Scarlet Knight throwing error at second the Yellow Jackets took advantage of their new life with four runs to tie the game.
After a scoreless 10th frame, Rutgers went ahead for good in the 11th when Garlick notched his first hit of the season at a most-opportune time with a two-run single with the bases loaded off GT reliever Chris Hicks. The Scarlet Knights added two more runs on a bases-loaded walk issued to Edwards and an RBI single from junior Jon Gossard (Harrington Park, N.J.).
Lillis (1-0) then rebounded from a two-out triple by Georgia Tech in the bottom half of the 11th to induce a game-ending groundout for his first win of the season.
Hicks (0-1) was charged with the loss for the Yellow Jackets with four runs on three hits in 1.1 innings.
Matthews led the Scarlet Knights in his third collegiate game with a 3-for-5 effort that included two RBI and three runs scored.
Rutgers and Georgia Tech continue their series with a 4:00 p.m. game on Saturday. Sophomore righty Casey Gaynor (Toms River, N.J.) will be on the mound for the Scarlet Knights against junior righty Eddie Burns for the Yellow Jackets.