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Baseball: Freshman homers in Rutgers’ fifth straight win

<p>Freshman third baseman Matt Tietz swings during the seventh inning of yesterday’s 6-3 win against Iona, where Tietz hit his first homerun.</p>

Freshman third baseman Matt Tietz swings during the seventh inning of yesterday’s 6-3 win against Iona, where Tietz hit his first homerun.

With the tying run at the plate, senior lefthander Rob Corsi balked with the count 1-1 on Iona first baseman Christian Choman to move runners to second and third with one out.

But Corsi got Choman to fly out and Joe Smith grounded out to end the game for a 6-3 win and move the Rutgers baseball team above .500 for the first time this season.

“A win is a win, whether it’s against Iona or any other team,” said head coach Fred Hill. “I don’t think you can say I’m not happy because the object is to win no matter what you do.”

Iona (3-24) threatened the whole game, including in the top of the eighth when it produced runners on first and third with two outs. Corsi plunked Chris Sand in the hand to load the bases, but Corsi struck out Iona’s next batter to get out of the jam.

Corsi is still happy with the results.

“It’s good on days like this when we are not firing on all cylinders to go out and get the win anyways,” Corsi said. “We have great guys behind me that make plays.”

While a veteran delivered on the mound, a freshman delivered the key offensive drive.

With the score just 4-3 in the Scarlet Knights’ (13-12, 5-1) favor in the bottom of the seventh, freshman third baseman Matt Tietz delivered a shot over the leftfield fence for his first-career home run. Senior catcher Jeff Melillo added an insurance run with his RBI single to make the score 5-3.

“It was big,” said Tietz, who was 0-for-3 before the blast. “I was trying to see a pitched I liked. In situations like that in games when we’re not hitting the ball so well, RBIs are big in every position you can.”

Freshman lefthander Howie Bray entered the game in the top of the sixth, but three straight runners reached base to give the Gaels the bases loaded with no outs.

Outfielder Jimmy Guiliano grounded out to first to bring in one runner, but Bray retired Smith on a breaking ball and Travis Mistretta grounded out to junior shortstop Pat Sweeney to end the inning.

Sophomore outfielder Vinny Zarrillo drove a double off of reliever Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the fifth. There was a play at the plate, but junior outfielder Brian O’Grady got under the tag. Melillo then drilled a two-run shot to extend the lead, 4-2.

With runners on second and third thanks to a wild pitch, Sweeney failed to deliver with two outs, as he popped up to center field to end the inning.

O’Leary lasted five innings, allowing his first hit in the fourth inning thanks to shortstop Matt Kriss, who drove in Byrne with an RBI triple to knot the score at one.

O’Grady increased his hitting streak to 14 games in the bottom of the third, when he hit a bases-empty single with two outs.

Senior first baseman Charlie Law was the first to strike for either team when he connected on a Steve Basile fastball and drilled it to left center to bring in Melillo for the 1-0 lead. The Knights threatened with runners on first and third in the same inning, but Iona caught freshman catcher R.J. Devish in a pickle to end the inning.

O’Leary had it working early in the game, as he retired the first 10 Iona batters. The Gaels could not get the ball out of the infield until the fourth inning, as a fly-out by second baseman Matt Byrne in the top of the fourth was the first to reach the outfield.

For more updates on the Rutgers baseball team, follow Bradly Derechailo on twitter @Bradly_D. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @targumsports.

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