July 18, 2019 | 78° F

Timely hits escape Rutgers in defeat

Photo by Conor Alwell |

Junior catcher Jeff Melillo recorded the only two RBI on two hits for the Knights in yesterday’s 5-3 loss to St. John’s.

Rutgers baseball pitcher Tyler Gebler threw a breaking ball that started so far inside to St. John’s third baseman Sean O’Hare that he turned away to avoid getting hit.

With his back to the plate, O’Hare could not see where the pitch went. But he did hear the strike call.

Gebler threw another hook to O’Hare. This time it did not curve as much and stayed over the plate. O’Hare knocked it for a stand-up double.

Gebler displayed the volatility he has shown during his junior season in those two pitches in the Scarlet Knights’ 5-3 loss yesterday to St. John’s at Bainton Field.

In terms of control, Gebler played to the caliber the Knights wanted out of him as the No. 1 starter with five strikeouts and one unintentional walk.

But Gebler entered the Knights’ (14-14, 3-4) Big East home opener with a .325 opposing batting average. He departed after allowing the Johnnies’ 12 hits, although he was unlucky on a few of them.

“I thought he did a very good job,” said head coach Fred Hill. “They got four pop balls for base hits in the right spot. He got a little tired at the end.”

He left after 7 1/3 innings with the bases loaded, putting senior righty Willie Beard in position to preserve the 3-3 tie. Beard also entered Tuesday against Princeton with the bases loaded.

“It’s my fifth year here. You can’t get nervous,” Beard said. “If you do, then you’re done.”

Beard struck out St. John’s shortstop Matt Wessinger to record the second out of the eighth. Then right fielder Pat Talbut hit a two-RBI single to put the Johnnies ahead, 5-3.

“I knew there was going to be no fielder there,” Beard said. “I knew he didn’t hit it hard, but a hit’s a hit. I didn’t do my job.”

The Knights also did not bring the timely hitting that resulted in at least six runs in the past four games. Hill wants the team to improve with runners on base.

“The only thing you can do is bear down at the dish,” Hill said. “Hopefully you get a pitch you can hit when you have men in scoring position.”

Junior catcher Jeff Melillo displayed a flash of the lineup’s potential with a two-RBI single in the fifth inning.

Melillo gave Rutgers a 3-1 lead, but he was the only Knight with an RBI against St. John’s.

“It’s just doing our job as a team to get runs in when you have someone,” Melillo said. “You work hard to get into scoring position. You just battle even harder to get that run in for the team.”

The North Hunterdon High School product went 2-for-4. Sophomore designated hitter Brian O’Grady was also a Knight unfazed by Red Storm pitching.

He began the game strong with a 10-pitch walk in the first Rutgers at-bat of the game. One at-bat later, he turned the power on.

The Warminster, Pa., native legged out a triple to open the third inning. A throwing error from St. John’s centerfielder Martin Kelly brought him home to tie it, 1-1.

But the Knights had no problem getting on base, totaling 10 hits and five walks.

On the other hand, St. John’s (17-12, 5-2) had a better time knocking in runners in scoring position against Gebler and Beard.

The Knights try to prevent more damage today and tomorrow against the Johnnies, but Hill was satisfied with yesterday’s effort.

“We talked before the game about the kids giving 100 percent effort, and I thought we did that,” Hill said. “I can’t fault that at all.”

By Josh Bakan

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