Knights top Princeton with walk-off
Some people discredit baseball players’ athletic ability. During moments of the Rutgers baseball team’s game against Princeton yesterday, both teams helped those doubters’ cases.
Much of the Scarlet Knights’ and Tigers’ exertion came from walking to first base, trotting to the next because of a walk and swinging occasionally before the umpire called, “Ball four.”
That was the result of 23 walks allowed.
Sophomore second baseman Nick Favatella led off in the bottom of the ninth inning, already with two walks.
Favatella, 5-foot-10, had the smallest strike zone of anyone in the Knights lineup. But his three home runs entering the game placed him second on the team.
Princeton pitcher Tyler Foote displayed the best control of the Tigers’ six pitchers used — he only walked one batter in two innings. But one pitch over the plate gave Favatella his fourth home run and a 12-11 Knights victory.
Hitting the ball out of spacious Bainton Field showed a flash of athleticism that excited the Knights. Head coach Fred Hill anticipated that ability.
“He’s a strong kid, very strong,” Hill said.
With all the walks, the three-hour, seven-minute game felt longer to many than it was. But Favatella turned the boredom in his dugout to a flurry of smiles as the Knights ran to home plate to celebrate with him.
“We all just wanted to end it here rather than go to extra innings,” Favatella said. “It was a really long game.”
Junior third baseman Pat Kivlehan also displayed the athleticism that made him a two-sport college athlete.
As a former Rutgers football defensive back, Kivlehan is used to more activity in spurts. Even in a matchup with less running than most, Kivlehan could not stand around.
The score was 8-8 when Kivlehan reached on a walk in the sixth inning. Tigers pitcher Nick Donatiello struggled with control like many of his fellow pitchers, who combined to walk 13 hitters.
Then the freshman threw his worst pitch of the day: a wild pitch to sophomore Michael Zavala that bounced higher than the dugouts.
By the time Princeton catcher Tyler Servais recovered the ball behind him and ran for home, Kivlehan already crossed the plate to put the Knights up, 9-8, their first lead of the day.
Junior Bill Hoermann ran hard in the same inning when he made contact, but he slowed down when he saw his ball fly over the fence.
Hoermann’s second home run of the season gave Rutgers an 11-8 lead.
Senior pitcher Willie Beard started five games last season. All of this season’s appearances were in relief.
The righty pitched 4 2/3 innings against Princeton — 2 2/3 more than any of his fellow pitchers. He also gave up only one of Princeton’s 10 walks.
The Spotswood High School product entered the game in the third inning, already the second reliever Hill put into the game.
The Tigers led, 7-4, and they loaded the bases. They scored two runs earlier in the inning because of walks with three runners on.
As the Knights’ leader in strikeouts out of the bullpen with 16, Beard was the first Rutgers pitcher to consistently get the ball over the plate. He ended the game allowing two runs. Rutgers scored seven while he was on the mound.
“My main thing was just to throw strikes,” Beard said. “The previous pitchers struggled to find the zone. If you throw strikes, good things happen.”
Beard took over for sophomore righty Charlie Lasky, who began the third inning. He departed 1/3 of an inning later after allowing a double and then four walks.
Sophomore starter Slater McCue was not much more effective. He allowed five runs and five walks in two innings.
Junior righty Charlie Law entered for the final Princeton out in the eighth inning. He was originally the probable starter today against Columbia, but junior righty Pat O’Leary will now make his debut start because the Knights went deep into their bullpen.
Hill was not pleased with the overall sloppiness outside of a few moments.
“We didn’t play that well other than Willie and [Favatella] hitting the walk-off home run,” Hill said.