September 22, 2019 | 77° F

Rutgers loses in extras to Columbia on passed ball

Photo by Conor Alwell |

Junior rightfielder Steve Zavala went 2-for-4 with a team-leading three RBI from the No. 5 spot yesterday against Columbia. Zavala hit his final RBI on a sacrifice fly in the top of the seventh inning to tie the game, 6-6, before Rutgers fell in the 10th.

The Rutgers baseball team learned what it was like to win in the last frame in its first walk-off win since 2007 on Tuesday against Princeton. Columbia gave the Scarlet Knights a taste yesterday of their own medicine.

The pitch came from junior righthander Charlie Law, but the Lions did not even have to touch the ball.

Columbia’s freshman infielder Justin Wong scored on a low pitch that passed sophomore catcher Michael Zavala to clinch Columbia’s 7-6 win in New York.

The Knights (14-13, 3-3) and Lions (10-14) exchanged leads throughout the game, while Columbia entered the bottom of the eighth inning with a 6-5 deficit.

“It’s tough having to come back all the time, but we do have a resilient group that never gives in,” said head coach Fred Hill in a statement. “We had some good at-bats, but that has to happen on a more consistent basis.”

Columbia pinch hitter Gus Craig entered for his first at-bat with second baseman Jordan Serena on second. The plate appearance was all he needed to keep the team’s hopes alive. Craig doubled down the leftfield line to score Serena and tie the game, 6-6.

Junior rightfielder Steve Zavala drove in his third and final runner of the day to tie the game with a sacrifice fly that scored junior catcher Jeff Melillo during his 2-for-4 day.

“Many of their pitchers had an off-speed approach, so I could pull it a little deeper and get a little longer to adjust,” Zavala said.

Junior third baseman Pat Kivlehan doubled to right center in the at-bat before Zavala to score sophomore second baseman Nick Favatella.

Junior righthander Jerry Elsing allowed the tying run in the eighth inning. He gave up the fourth run that the Rutgers bullpen allowed in the game.

The Lions scored four runs in the sixth inning, but only one was earned.

“We just have to keep it simple and make the plays, nothing more than that,” Hill said.

Both runs freshman righty Jon Young allowed came from errors. Young gave up two hits and struck out one batter, departing without recording an out.

Young entered the game following a promising starting debut from junior righthander Pat O’Leary.

O’Leary did not even expect to start until less than 24 hours beforehand.

Hill penciled Law in to start against Columbia, but had to dip deep into his bullpen against the Tigers. Law pitched 1/3 of the ninth inning, so he was not available to start.

O’Leary ended the game allowing two earned runs, three strikeouts and one walk in 5 2/3 innings.

“The first inning, I had jitters right away,” O’Leary said. “After I got past my usual pitch count, I just tried to throw strikes and get them out.”

Kivlehan gave O’Leary a lead before he even stepped on the mound for his first career start. The West Nyack, N.Y., native stole home on a pick-off attempt to first. Kivlehan stole home a day earlier on a Princeton passed ball.

In the first two Knights games this week, only sophomore pitcher Slater McCue had starting experience. He only had one start under his belt.

Rutgers returns to a more experienced pitcher today, when junior righty Tyler Gebler opens a series against St. John’s (16-12, 4-2) at Bainton Field.

By Josh Bakan

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