PISCATAWAY, NJ – With 18 wins in its last 20 games, including two of three this weekend vs. Notre Dame, the Rutgers baseball team (30-16 overall, 17-5 BIG EAST) jumped seven spots to No. 22 in the latest Collegiate Baseball Top 30 national poll. Rutgers is the highest-ranked BIG EAST team, one spot ahead of No. 23 Notre Dame, which fell three spots from last week.
Ranked 29th last Monday, Rutgers enjoyed a 4-1 effort in five games this past week. After beating Ivy-League champion Princeton, 20-0, on Tuesday, Rutgers held off St. Peter’s, 8-3, in the final tune-up before a three-game series with the Irish.
In the opening game, Rutgers fell, 2-0, but rebounded with a 10-2 victory in the second game behind the strong pitching of Shaun Parker (Westampton, NJ) and OJ DeChristofano (Pequannock, NJ). Sophomore Jeff Frazier (Toms River, NJ) drove in three runs in the game, while Johnny Defendis (Staten Island, NY) was 2-for-3 with two runs and two RBI.
On Sunday, the two teams met for the series finale and played a game for the ages. The start time was moved up to 11:00 a.m. with rain predicted for the area, yet it wasn’t until 4:42 later that the game was finally decided. Tied at 3-3 in the 19th inning, senior Steve Normane (Pt. Pleasant, NJ) followed Vinny Esposito’s (Middletown, NJ) single with a two-run home run to right field, giving Rutgers the victory in the longest game in BIG EAST history. It was two innings longer than the previous record, a 9-7 win by Rutgers over Seton Hall in the opening game of the 1998 BIG EAST Tournament, when back-up catcher Joe Waleck homered.
Rutgers (17-5, .773) is currently in second place in the league standings, just percentage points behind league-leading West Virginia (16-4, .800). The Scarlet Knights are 22-5 at home this season and own a 28-6 mark since falling to No. 13 Florida Atlantic, 9-8, on March 19 in Boca Raton.
The Scarlet Knights, hitting .308 as a team, are led offensively by senior Matt Wolski (Hamilton, NJ), who is hitting .403 overall and .408 in BE play. Frazier (.331, 6 HR, 43 RBI), Esposito (.357, 2 HR, 35 RBI) and Normane (.338, 6 HR, 44 RBI) form a potent 3-4-5 combination in the lineup. Sophomore Jack Egbert (Rutherford, NJ) is 7-4 overall and 6-1 in BIG EAST play to lead the pitching staff. Parker (3-2, 4.93) and Aaron Kalb (Middletown, NJ), who allowed just two hits and two runs in 8.1 innings vs. Notre Dame on Sunday, are the other weekend starters. The bullpen features Sean Atchison (Florham Park, NJ), who is 4-1 with 2 saves and a 1.21 ERA, and freshmen Chris Lillis (Fair Haven, NJ) and DeChristofano. Lillis is 2-2 with five saves and a 2.89 ERA, while DeChristofano checks in at 3-3, 2.86.
RU returns to action on Thursday vs. Delaware before heading to Villanova on Friday and Saturday for three games to close the BIG EAST-portion of the regular season.