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Baseball: RU sweeps ‘Cats in three-game series

<p>Junior outfielder Brian O’Grady extended his hitting streak to 12 games in Rutgers’ 9-4 victory Saturday against Villanova. He batted .384 in the three-game series.</p>

Junior outfielder Brian O’Grady extended his hitting streak to 12 games in Rutgers’ 9-4 victory Saturday against Villanova. He batted .384 in the three-game series.

Rutgers head baseball coach Fred Hill was interested in how his team would respond in its three games against Villanova.

He can remain at ease for now — as the Scarlet Knights collected 16 hits in their 9-4 victory Saturday against the Wildcats, securing a series sweep.

“We got some hits at the right time, which has been happening recently,” Hill said.

Senior righthander Charlie Law pitched well for his second win of the season, striking out eight batters in six innings before he was relieved by the bullpen.

While the Knights’ pitching, their offensive production was more impressive.

Each of Rutgers’ top-four batters had three hits — including Brian O’Grady, who batted third in the lineup. The junior outfielder increased his hitting streak to 12 games, the longest streak of any Knight this season.

Villanova caught up to Rutgers in the bottom of the sixth inning to make it a 4-3 game. With two outs, right fielder Connor Jones drove Law’s pitch over the right field fence for a three-run home run. Law retired catcher Rob Slagle during the last at bat to get out of the inning.

Senior lefthander Rob Corsi came in for Law and finished the last three innings to earn his second save of the season.

Rutgers’ pitching staff took more responsibility during the second game of the series Friday — as the Knights were only able to score two runs in the contest.

Senior righthander Tyler Gebler shouldered the load and did so effectively — posting a three-hit shutout for the 2-0 win.

Gebler lasted all nine innings for Rutgers and struck out eight Wildcats to secure the win.

For Hill, having such production on the hill is vital.

“I thought we played pretty well and we got good pitching in all three game,” Hill said. “It’s very important [to pitch well]. You’re not going to win a lot of games if you don’t have good pitching.”

Rutgers’ only runs came in the top of the seventh inning thanks to senior outfielder Steve Zavala.

Zavala drove in sophomore outfielder Vinny Zarrillo with an RBI single to right field. He then advanced home on a wild pitch by Villanova reliever Stephen Ostapeck to make it a 2-0 ballgame.

Senior lefthander Rob Smorol continued his career dominance against the Wildcats in the opening game of the series Thursday, as he hurled eight shutout innings in the 6-0 win. Smorol has not allowed a run against Villanova in 24 and two-thirds straight innings.

Smorol also struck out eight batters for his third win of the season and allowed just five hits to go along with only one walk.

Though Rutgers needed one run to win the first game, half of its run total came in the top of the ninth.

Junior second baseman Nick Favatella drove in two runners with a double to right center and was then drove in by O’Grady’s double.

Rutgers improved to 5-1 in Big East play and will finally play at home for the first time this season today against Columbia at Bainton Field.

For updates on the Rutgers baseball team, follow Bradly Derechailo on Twitter @Bradly_D.

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