ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (February 26, 2010) – Down 6-3, Rutgers brought the tying run to the plate with two outs in the ninth and denied a complete-game bid by Iowa starter Jarred Hippen but the Scarlet Knights could not close the gap anymore with a groundout against Hawkeye reliever Kevin Lee in an opening-game loss in the Big Ten/BIG EAST Baseball Challenge at Al Lang Stadium Friday morning in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Rutgers (0-4) and Iowa (2-1), who faced each other during the 2008 season three hours north for a spring break series in Deland, Fla., met in the opening game of the second annual tournament in St. Petersburg, pitting members of the Big Ten Conference against members of the BIG EAST Conference.
A leadoff triple by Zach McCool set the table for a sacrifice fly from Ryan Durant to give Iowa an early 1-0 lead in the opening frame.
The Scarlet Knights countered with a leadoff triple of their own in the second as junior Jaren Matthews (Teaneck, N.J.) found the gap in right-center field and a Jarred Jimenez (Monroe, N.J.) groundout got him home on the next play to tie it up.
RU threatened to take the lead in the top half of the third after junior Brandon Boykin (Teaneck, N.J.) led off the frame with a double and later stole third with one out, but the Scarlet Knights couldn’t get him home.
McCool once again set the table for a run for the Hawkeyes with a leadoff single in the bottom half of the third. Mike McQuillan followed with a single to right field to put runners on first and second and McCool scored two plays later as Durant and Dallas Burke hit into a fielder’s choice as RU got the out at second on consecutive plays.
Both teams were retired in order in the fourth and the Scarlet Knights and Hawkeyes traded single runs, each with two outs, in the fifth as Iowa held on to the one-run advantage.
Both teams were retired in order in the sixth as Rutgers starter Casey Gaynor (Toms River, N.J.) and Hippen worked into the seventh inning.
After a 1-2-3 frame for Hippen in the seventh, Iowa got a leadoff double from Trevor Willis and moved him over to third on a sacrifice bunt. After a strikeout, Rutgers went to its bullpen for Dan O’Neill (Garfield, N.J.) and with runners on second and third, the freshman induced a pop out and got a big strikeout to deny the Hawkeyes a run in the inning.
Hippen continued to hold the Scarlet Knights at bay with a pair of strikeouts in the eighth and Iowa put a pair of runners on with one out in the bottom half of the frame. Veteran reliever Kevin Lillis (Fair Haven, N.J.) came in for his 77th career appearance – the mark is tied with Matt Pustay (2003-06) for third-most all-time. Iowa’s Chett Zeise singled to left field to bring a run home and with two outs in the frame, Kurt Lee found the gap in left-center field for a two-run double to stretch the Hawkeye’s lead to 6-2.
Rutgers put runners on first and second with two outs and Hippen’s complete-game bid was denied as the Hawkeyes went to their bullpen for Kevin Lee. Senior Jayson Hernandez (Belmar, N.J.) greeted Lee with an RBI single back up the middle to make it 6-3 and RU brought the tying run to the plate with pinch hitter Ryan Kapp (Toms River, N.J.) but the Scarlet Knights could not get any closer as Lee got out of the jam with a groundout to preserve the victory.
Hippen (1-0) earned the win, coming just short of the complete-game with 8.2 innings of work and eight strikeouts with just three runs allowed on six hits. Gaynor (0-2) took the loss despite a solid 6.1 innings with five strikeouts and three runs allowed. Lee posted the one-out save for his second save of the season for the Hawkeyes.
Gaynor’s five strikeouts gave him 176 strikeouts for his career and moved him past the late Darrin Winston (175 from 1985-88) for third place on the Rutgers career strikeout list. Gaynor’s 6.1 innings brought his career inning total to 230.2 which moved him past Neil Ioviero (230.1 from 1991-94) for seventh place on the Rutgers all-time innings pitched list. Friday was the senior hurler’s 39th career start which is the second-most in school history, one behind senior teammate Matt Giannini (Millington, N.J.).
Rutgers returns to action in the Big Ten/BIG EAST Baseball Challenge tomorrow with a 10 a.m. game against Northwestern at Raymond Naimoli Complex. Senior lefty Dennis Hill (Hillsdale, N.J.) will be on the mound for the Scarlet Knights against sophomore righty Francis Brooke for the Wildcats.