COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Rutgers used a late-inning rally with five runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth and closer Jason Downey (Ballston Lake, N.J.) shut the door with five strikeouts as the Scarlet Knights took down No. 21 Texas A&M, 10-8, in the series opener Friday night in front of 3,304 fans at Olsen Field.
The win improved the Scarlet Knights to 3-4 on the season and gave them their third victory over a nationally-ranked team (also beat No. 25 Old Dominion and No. 22 Georgia Tech) in the young season. Texas A&M fell to 9-3.
Facing a 5-1 deficit early on, Rutgers chipped away at Texas A&M's lead with single runs in the fifth and sixth innings. A leadoff double from Dan Betteridge (Sewell, N.J.) set the stage for a run-producing groundout to first base by Donny Callahan (Sparta, N.J.) two plays later for RU's second run and a two-out RBI single to right field from Luis Feliz (New Brunswick, N.J.) plated the Scarlet Knights' third score of the game.
Rutgers then continued its momentum and surged into the lead with a five-run seventh inning to make it 8-5. The frame started with a pinch-hit double to the gap in right-center field from Joey Ianiero (Bloomsburg, Pa.) and ended with an Ianiero pop out as the Scarlet Knights batted around in the inning. The damage had already been done as Ianiero stepped to the plate for the second time in the inning as the Scarlet Knights scored five runs all with two outs. A bases-loaded double from Jon Gossard (Harrington Park, N.J.) scored the first two runs of the frame. Matthews followed with a sharp grounder up the middle to score a third run. RU then capitalized from three wild pitches from Aggie hurler Kevin Cravey – Texas A&M's third pitcher of the frame – to plate two additional runs for the 8-5 lead.
With Holt out of the game, RU turned to Kevin Lillis (Fair Haven, N.J.) in the bottom half of the seventh. He worked to three batters getting one out before lefty Matt Patterson (Passaic, N.J.) came out of the bullpen. Texas A&M countered with a righty pinch hitter and the move paid off as the Aggies got a run across on a fielder's choice. They turned to a pinch hitter again and newly-inserted Caleb Shofner found the gap in right field to score one run before a miscue in the Scarlet Knight outfield allowed the tying run to cross the plate to knot it up at 8-8.
Rutgers came right back in the eighth. New Aggie hurler Kyle Thebeau issued a leadoff walk to Callahan and Brett Garlick's (Livingston, N.J.) sacrifice bunt was fielded by the third baseman, who attempted to get the Callahann out at second but his throw sailed into the outfield to put runners on the corners. A well-executed bunt from Vic Cegles (Phoenix, Ariz.) scored Callahan for the eventual game-winning run and Rutgers added an insurance run on an RBI groundout from Gossard.
A double by Texas A&M's Blake Stouffer put runners on second and third with one out in the home half of the eighth and chased Patterson out of the game. Downey came in with the tying run on second and shut the door on the Aggies with a pair of big strikeouts to end the threat. Downey continued his dominance with three more strikeouts in the ninth for his first save of the season. He nearly struckout the side in order before giving up a single on a 2-2 count to the second batter of the inning.
Rutgers starter Steve Holt (Toms River, N.J.) settled down from five runs in the first three innings to work a solid six-innings with four strikeouts and only one walk.
Patterson (1-0) got the win in an inning of scoreless relief, while Aggie reliever Kyle Thebeau (0-1) took the loss after surrendering the pair of runs in the eighth.
Rutgers' 10 runs are the most scored by a Texas A&M opponent this season. The previous high run total was seven.
Rutgers and Texas A&M continue their series Saturday night with a 7:30 p.m. game. Sophomore righty Casey Gaynor (Toms River, N.J.) will be on the mound for the Scarlet Knights against freshman lefty Brooks Raley for the Aggies.