PISCATAWAY, N.J. (April 3, 2010) – The Rutgers baseball team had its eight-game winning streak snapped with a 6-5 loss to No. 24 Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon in front of 745 fans at Bainton Field. The Panthers tied it up with a run in the eighth and scored off an error in the ninth to hand RU its first loss since March 19.
Despite Saturday’s loss, the Scarlet Knights took two games from the Panthers and won their fourth-straight weekend series. RU is 14-11 overall and atop the BIG EAST standings at 5-1 in the league.
Junior Michael Lang (Dumont, N.J.) cleared the left-field fence in the first inning for his fourth home run of the season to give RU the early 1-0 lead.
Senior Jayson Hernandez (Belmar, N.J.) opened the second with a single down the left-field line and fellow senior Jarred Jimenez (Monroe, N.J.) followed with a long fly ball that hit off the top of the wall in left-center field for a double to put a pair of Scarlet Knights in scoring position. Junior Brandon Boykin (Teaneck, N.J.) got both runners home three batters later with a line drive back up the middle to extend the RU lead to 3-0.
The Panthers (19-6, 4-2 BIG EAST) got a pair of singles with one out in the third and moved both into scoring position with a double steal. Pitt then followed with a pair of groundouts to the shortstop off Rutgers starter Dan O’Neill (Garfield, N.J.) to get a run home in the frame.
Pitt led off the fifth with a pair of singles from Danny Lopez and John Schultz and both runners moved into scoring position on a wild pitch where David Chester got a run home on a single back up the middle. Sophomore Willie Beard (Spotswood, N.J.) came in on relief of O’Neill and got a quick second out with a strikeout. A wild pitch later in the frame allowed Schultz to score from third and tie the game at 3-3.
Lopez, who had four hits in the contest, led off the seventh with a single and was sacrificed over where he came around to score on a Kevan Smith single back up the middle later in the frame to give the Panthers their first lead of the game.
Rutgers came right back in the see-saw battle with Boykin providing a huge lift in the seventh to spark a two-out rally. Down 0-2 in the count, Boykin worked the count full and took the next pitch over the right-field fence with two outs in the bottom of the frame to tie the game up at 4-4. RU continued its two-out rally as Lang followed with a single through the left side to chase Pitt starter Nathan Hood out of the game. Junior Pat Biserta (Pt. Pleasant, N.J.) followed with a single through the right side to move Lang over to third. Freshman Steve Nyisztor (Toms River, N.J.) drilled a 2-2 pitch deep in the hole on the left side for an infield single to score Lang from third and put the Scarlet Knights back on top, 5-4.
Sophomore Nathaniel Roe (Plainfield, N.J.) came in to start the eighth for the Scarlet Knights on the mound. Pitt’s Zach Duggan drew a two-out walk and stole second where Lopez came through again for the Panthers with an RBI double down the left-field line to tie it back up at 5-5.
Pitt reliever J.R. Leonardi struck out the side in the eighth and Pitt continued its momentum in the ninth.
With Rutgers closer Tyler Gebler (Toms River, N.J.) in the game, the Panthers got their first two runners on with a single and an infield error. Pitt attempted to sacrifice both runners into scoring position but an alert Jaren Matthews (Teaneck, N.J.) at first base fielded the bunt and fired to third to retire the lead runner. With the go-ahead run on second and one out, Gebler got Philip Konieczny to hit a ground ball to the right side where the second baseman Nyisztor scooped it up and flipped it to shortstop Dan Betteridge (Sewell, N.J.) for the first out but the throw to first on the inning-ending double-play attempt was mishandled allowing Konieczny to reach first safely and pinch runner Evan Oswald to score from second and give the Panthers a 6-5 lead.
Leonardi (1-2) retired RU in order in the bottom of the ninth to earn the win in relief. Gebler (0-1) took the loss with no earned runs allowed in 1.1 innings of relief work. O’Neill struck out two and in 4.1 innings of work for RU, while Hood posted five strikeouts in 6.2 innings of work for Pitt.
Rutgers returns to action Tuesday as the Scarlet Knights host Princeton in a 3:30 p.m. game at Bainton Field.