Rotation, offense click in sweep against Bearcats
The Rutgers baseball team has endured a season of surprises.
After the Scarlet Knights entered the year expecting the rotation to carry them, injuries held it back. The Rutgers lineup has carried them instead through the leadership of junior third baseman Pat Kivlehan.
With only three weeks until the Big East Championships, the lineup and pitching finally clicked.
The Rutgers rotation set the Knights up for victories last weekend at Cincinnati, and the lineup helped clinch the series sweep.
Rutgers combined its pitching and hitting success in yesterday’s 5-2 win against the Bearcats.
“We have a number of hitters that can really hit the ball, and I feel comfortable with the lineup one through nine,” said head coach Fred Hill in a statement. “Everyone knows their role and what they are capable of when going to the plate. We want everyone to play to their strengths.”
Rutgers led only, 3-2, in the eighth inning, but the Knights generated runs this season even without power.
Junior first baseman Bill Hoermann recorded an RBI on a fielder’s choice, and then he scored on junior right fielder Steve Zavala’s single.
Rutgers (26-17, 11-7) took a 3-0 lead in the fifth inning, thanks partly to Kivlehan’s two-run home run — his second of the series and 10th of the season.
Kivlehan did not know what to expect in his rookie season, but hitting double-digit home runs still does not surprise him.
“I didn’t have expectations,” he said. “I just wanted to make an impact and do my role.”
Senior righthander Ryan Fasano (5-3) completed his third victory in as many starts with two earned runs allowed in seven innings.
Fasano continued junior lefthander Rob Smorol’s momentum from Saturday, when the pitcher recorded his team-leading sixth victory of the season, which surpasses all of last year’s pitchers.
“Rob has really been a stable part of our rotation this season,” Hill said. “He has really used the experience he gained in the past few years to put together a solid season. The main thing is he is throwing a lot of strikes and stays ahead of hitters.”
The offense put together timely hits in Friday’s extra-inning 3-1 victory and then clicked from top to bottom during Saturday’s 13-1 win.
Smorol allowed only one run in seven innings, while striking out seven against the Bearcats (12-32, 2-16).
The lineup helped him out with double-digit runs.
“The hitters worked to favorable counts and put some good swings on the ball,” Hill said.
Kivlehan shot out his first home run of the series and recorded his second multi-hit game at Marge Schotte Stadium.
The West Nyack, N.Y., native also had help from the rest of the lineup, which netted 17 hits.
Three came from the bat of junior designated hitter Charlie Law, who notched a team-leading five RBI.
Law ended the game a triple away from hitting a cycle, which included a two-run home run in the top of the third. Rutgers scored at least one run in each of the first six innings.
Junior righthander Tyler Gebler was not as lucky Friday with run support.
“Cincinnati has some good pitchers, and the Friday starter did a nice job of mixing speeds to hold us down,” Hill said.
Luckily for the Knights, Gebler threw one of his best outings of the season.
He tossed eight innings in his one-run outing, when he struck out eight. He also pitched with a 1-0 deficit until his final inning.
“It’s easier to pitch with the lead, but when you’re down, you’re down,” Gebler said. “You need to work a little harder until your offense puts up some runs.”
Cincinnati held the lead until the 10th inning, when Rutgers scored two runs off of a pair of Cincinnati errors.
Gebler took a no-decision, but he began the rotation’s momentum against Cincinnati.
“Pretty much all year [Smorol and Fasano] have been strong,” Gebler said. “We’re pretty much where we want to be with three weeks left in the season, and the bullpen’s strong.”