Rutgers sweeps host ODU?for first victories


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Senior reliever Willie Beard pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 1 of the Knights’ three-game sweep of Old Dominion.


In its opening series of the season, the Rutgers baseball team put together dominant pitching and hitting against a baseball powerhouse. But the Scarlet Knights never did both in the same game.

The Knights traveled to Old Dominion last weekend, and in a three-game sweep, Rutgers executed those individualized parts in a team effort.

“Getting to 3-3 is very important,” said head coach Fred Hill. “If I were a player, I’d be thinking, ‘We’re back on the right track.’”

The Knights’ pitchers allowed only four walks throughout the weekend. No pitcher improved more from the last time out than junior lefty Rob Corsi.

Photo: The Daily Targum

Junior catcher Jeff Melillo combined with two teammates to plate eight runs in three games against Old Dominion.

Corsi bounced back from his loss to Miami, in which he had more earned runs than innings pitched, to make the Big East Weekly Honor Roll.

“I made sure to calm down and relax, and I made sure to throw strikes,” Corsi said.

The mindset led to seven-shutout innings in the Knights’ 5-1 win.

Corsi (1-1) made the Honor Roll, but the entire Rutgers pitching staff impressed Hill.

“[Tyler] Gebler, [Rob] Smorol, [Ryan] Fasano, Corsi and [Willie] Beard all did a pretty good job,” he said. “Much better than the week before.”

The Knights’ 11-8 victory Saturday was their most complete game of the weekend.

Junior closer Jerry Elsing took the mound to get the final three outs with an 11-5 advantage. Rutgers (3-3) put together 17 hits, and its pitching allowed only four earned runs in the first eight innings.

But the Knights defense was not there.

Rutgers added two errors, bringing its total of five, and allowed three runs in the final inning. None affected Elsing’s blank ERA.

“The ninth inning in the second game was an atrocity,” Hill said. “Luckily, we had a nice lead so we were able to get out of there.”

It is rare that a team wins a five-error game, but it can happen with superior pitching and hitting.

On the pitching end, Smorol rebounded from a Miami loss, in which he only went four innings, to give up only one earned run in seven innings against the Monarchs (2-5).

Offensively, eight Knights notched two or more hits. The middle of the order also played up to par.

Sophomore second baseman Nick Favatella, junior catcher Jeff Melillo and junior right fielder Steve Zavala knocked in a combined eight runs while occupying the three, four and five holes in the order.

Zavala reached base four times behind Melillo and batted in two. The lineup protection aided Melillo to his three-RBI day, according to the catcher.

“Steve Zavala getting behind you and driving in runs really helps out as a hitter,” Melillo said.

Zavala also led a four-run rally during the seventh inning in Friday’s 8-6 win. The Randolph High School product initiated the scoring with a two-run double.

Beard earned the win out of the bullpen with 3 1/3 shutout innings and allowed only one Monarchs hit.

Rutgers began its offensive dominance with 15 hits in the series opener, leading it to 40 in three games.

The Knights evened their record against Old Dominion. But they travel this weekend to face a team closer to Miami’s caliber in No. 14 Georgia Tech (6-2). The Knights hope to prove themselves as they did against the Monarchs.


By Josh Bakan

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