September 24, 2018 | ° F

Rotation leads Knights to WVU sweep

Photo by Keith Freeman |

Sophomore midfielder Lauren Sbrilli looks to avoid a Cincinnati defender yesterday at Yurcak Field. Sbrilli led the Knights with three goals in the Senior Day victory.

With the fourth-to-last ERA in the Big East, effective pitching was no guarantee for the Rutgers baseball team in this weekend’s series against West Virginia.

After giving up 24 runs to St. John’s in their last Big East series, the Scarlet Knights won more games with their arms.

It was also no help that junior pitcher Rob Corsi still nursed an elbow injury for the third straight weekend.

Senior righthander Ryan Fasano stood in for him again Sunday at Bainton Field. A week removed from a five-inning, eight-run start against the Red Storm, Fasano’s performance was different.

“[Against] St. John’s, I didn’t have a fastball,” Fasano said. “Today I had all three pitches.”

Fasano was victorious in a 3-1 win that completed a sweep against West Virginia, ending with one run allowed in 8 2/3 innings while striking out five and walking none.

The Stony Point, N.Y., native also recorded the third straight official quality start — a starter must complete at least six innings and allow three earned runs or less — of the series.

“It’s tremendous when you don’t have to go to your bullpen for four or five guys,” said head coach Fred Hill. “That’s what we’ve had to do.”

Junior lefthander Rob Smorol completed Saturday’s 8-4 victory, allowing three runs in seven innings after junior righthander Tyler Gebler allowed two runs in eight during Friday’s 3-2 win.

The Knights’ (19-15, 7-5) lineup immediately dominated Saturday, beginning with a five-run first inning, and scored a run apiece in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

“We did what we were supposed to do,” Hill said of the three innings. “We got guys in scoring position and moved them over.”

The Rutgers lineup also produced without swinging the bat as a result of seven walks, two West Virginia errors and getting hit by two pitches.

Junior third baseman Pat Kivlehan was hit by both. But as a former Rutgers football team defensive back, he does not mind getting hit.

“Football’s a lot worse,” Kivlehan said. “A baseball stings for two seconds, but football hurts for about 12 weeks.”

The Knights did not win as easily Friday, when they struggled to get runners on until the final inning.

Much of their contact produced line drives, but the Mountaineers (14-23, 3-9) were often in the right place at the right time and allowed only six hits through eight.

That changed in the ninth inning, even though the Knights did not hit the ball as hard.

Sophomore shortstop Pat Sweeney blooped a single into left field with two on.

“What’s funny about the whole thing is that we hit some balls today right on the nose right at people,” Hill said. “The hit that ties the game is a blooper over third base that lands short in the outfield. The game will drive you crazy.”

That loaded the bases for sophomore second baseman Nick Favatella.

Favatella already hit a walk-off home run April 3 against Princeton. He was ready to do it again.

“It’s nice to really be in a situation that you can directly help your team win like this,” Favatella said. “There’s no better feeling in the world.”

Favatella hit a middle-in fastball to the same place as Sweeney to score junior first baseman Bill Hoermann. Favatella and the Knights walked off in the 3-2 victory.

Two of Rutgers’ victories were close against West Virginia, but Hill is happy the pitching kept the team in it.

“I don’t know if it’s good for my stomach, but it’s good when you can win some close games,” he said. “The confidence level soars.”

By Josh Bakan

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