Rookie earns first victory against Fordham behind career-day from Sweeney

<p>Freshman lefthander Ryan Fleming delivers a pitch at FirstEnergy Park last night en route to his first-career win against Fordham. Fleming threw a career-high six innings and struck out four batters.</p>

Freshman lefthander Ryan Fleming delivers a pitch at FirstEnergy Park last night en route to his first-career win against Fordham. Fleming threw a career-high six innings and struck out four batters.

LAKEWOOD, N.J. — The road to earning the first career win is harder for some pitchers than others. For freshman lefthander Ryan Fleming, his first six appearances of the season saw him allow 25 hits, 19 walks and 15 earned runs in 18 innings pitched.

Fleming thought he might earn his first victory after pitching five innings with one earned run against Virginia Commonwealth over spring break.

The Churchville, Pa., native previously could not make it past the third inning in his last two starts, lasting one inning against Connecticut March 28 — leaving due to injury — and three innings against Iona on April 2 after forfeiting four runs and six walks.

Fleming earned the first win of his career in his sixth start of the season after the Rutgers baseball team beat Fordham (12-17), 13-3, last night at FirstEnergy Park.

He threw six innings — the most for his career — struck out four and allowed three earned runs on eight hits and two walks.

The outcome does more than add a win to Fleming’s record. It boosts the morale of the rookie.

“It feels good [to get my first career win]. There were a few games where they kind of slipped away and I earned the no decision,” Fleming said. “But, it was good to come out and get the big win for my confidence.”

The Scarlet Knights (12-16) were able to support Fleming with a season-high 17 hits and 13 runs.

The bulk of Rutgers’ offense came from senior infielders Brian O’Grady, Pat Sweeney and Nick Favatella. O’Grady went 2-for-4 with two RBI and one run, while Favatella crossed the plate two times and added an RBI.

And then there was the performance from Sweeney.

The Sparta, N.J., native went 4-for-4 with three runs scored and three runs batted in, hitting only his second-career home run and was a triple shy of the cycle.

“Wow, just wow. [Sweeney] did everything well today,” said head coach Joe Litterio. “He fielded, he hit and took extra bases. This has got to be one of his best games. This is his best game I have seen him play. He just came out and played baseball.”

An impressive first two innings bolstered the night for Rutgers.

The second inning started off with a home run from Sweeney, followed by a double from freshman outfielder Mike Carter and a triple from O’Grady to give Fleming a comfortable 7-1 lead. The Knights had six runners reach base and had four cross the plate.

While Rutgers put up a season high for hits, Litterio attributed it to the stadium atmosphere at FirstEnergy Park.

“The stadium brings out a lot and our kids noticed that,” Litterio said. “You are playing in a stadium with the lights on and it just brings out that extra level in your ball club. It makes you feel proud of what you got and they came out and showed that on the field.”

While Sweeney was able to have a career-day at the plate, he was able to put the performance into perspective.

“I was just seeing the ball well today. It was just one of those days,” Sweeney said. “Baseball is a funny sport sometimes. You have those type of days where the baseball looks like a beach ball. It was one of those days for me.”

For updates on the Rutgers baseball team, follow Tyler Karalewich on Twitter @TylerKaralewich. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.

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