The Seton Hall baseball team’s offense continued a major slump as the Pirates dropped the series opener against Rutgers, 3-2, on Friday afternoon at Owen T. Carroll Field.
Missing starting third baseman Kyle Grimm (.356 avg.) and left fielder Zack Weigel (.282 avg.), the Pirates’ offense could not find anything more than two RBI in the bottom of the third by senior shortstop D.J. Ruhlman and senior first baseman Sal Annunziata. It was the fourth straight game in which SHU scored less than two runs.
After a 1-2-3 first inning, sophomore right-hander Zach Prendergast only recorded one out in what was a rough second frame.
Kyle Walker led off the inning with a triple and Chris Suseck followed on the next at-bat with a double to left, giving Rutgers a 1-0 advantage. After R.J. Devish bunted Suseck over and Mike Carter walked, Christian Campbell crushed a double to score the game’s second run.
Seton Hall pitching coach Phil Cundari was forced to go to his bullpen, but freshman Matt Leon induced a lineout double play to end the Scarlet Knights’ bases-loaded threat.
The Hall (19-16) responded immediately in the bottom half of the third as sophomore left fielder Jackson Martin walked and junior center fielder Derek Jenkins reached on a bunt single. After a double steal, a sac fly to left by Ruhlman and an infield single by Annunziata tied the score at two apiece.
In the fifth, after Leon dealt a lead-off walk, senior left-hander Dan Ditusa came on, but he struggled by walking two in his time on the rubber and only recorded two outs. After Rutgers (14-26-1) loaded the bases with walks, Walker contributed again for Rutgers. The freshman grounded a fielder’s choice to second, beating out a potential double play and giving the Scarlet Knights the lead back. After Ditusa walked another with two outs, junior Sam Burum came on from the bullpen and worked out of the inning.
The Pirates were unable to get much going against lefty Mark McCoy, who earned his second win of the season with six innings pitched on just four hits. He struck out five on the afternoon.
The biggest threat for SHU came in the eighth when Alex Falconi came to the plate with one out and Mike Alescio at first base. Falconi drilled a deep liner to left, but Rutgers left fielder Vinny Zarrillo leaped up into the air and made a back-hand grab. While the ball looked as if it was going to fly over his head, Alescio was caught-off guard and bolted around second. Zarrillo fired a throw to the infield and the Scarlet Knights doubled Alescio up, ending what was SHU’s last major threat.
Burum was the game’s unsung hero, as the junior ended up tossing 4.1 innings of perfect baseball. The Pirates relied on the pen for 7.2 innings in all, and SHU only allowed one run in that time.
In total, the Pirates left seven men on base. The two teams combined for only 10 hits in all.
The unique three-game non-conference series continues Saturday in Piscataway as the Pirates and Scarlet Knights will battle at 1 p.m. at Rutgers. Sunday, the two will face off at T.D. Bank Park in Bridgewater, N.J., the home of the Somerset Patriots, who are a member of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. First pitch for the series finale is set for 3 p.m.
The Pirates are currently in third in the Big East at 5-4. Creighton and St. John’s are at 7-2 after wins over Butler and Villanova, respectively. Outside of the top three teams in the league, all four of the other teams are under .500 in conference play.