Boca Raton, FL - Strong starting pitching, timely hitting and solid defense were the ingredients for success as the Florida Atlantic University baseball team picked up a 5-2 series-opening victory over Rutgers University on Friday at the FAU Baseball Stadium in Boca Raton.
The Owls improve to 10-5 on the season and have won seven of their first 10 home games. The two teams will resume the weekend's three-game series on Saturday, March 10, at 4 p.m.
FAU wasted no time in grabbing the early lead as junior outfielder Corey Keller hit a three-run home run over the left field fence in the bottom of the first inning. The blast marked the second straight contest in which Keller has hit a home run - his only home runs of this season. Junior outfielder Nathan Pittman and senior infielder Mike Albaladejoscored ahead of Keller's route around the bases.
The score would remain 3-0 until the top of the fourth inning when Rutgers scratched a run across. Jeff Melillo hit a sacrifice fly to left field that plated Nick Favatella, bringing the Scarlet Knights within 3-1.
However, the Owls quickly answered in the bottom of the fourth inning on back-to-back RBI singles by junior third baseman Kyle Newton and junior catcher Mike Spano. Newton's single up the middle scored Keller, who began the rally with a double to right field.
That's all the offense starting pitcher Ryan Gartonwould need as the right hander struck out seven batters and allowed a season-low two hits in seven quality innings. He stands 3-1 on the season and lowered his earned run average to 2.45 on the season.
Rutgers (3-7) did manage to load the bases with one out in the eighth inning, but junior reliever R.J. Alvarezcame in to strike out Melillo and Steve Savala to end the threat. Those are the only two batters that the right hander faced, and Alvarez needed 12 pitches before getting Melillo out on a curve ball.
Keller paced FAU's offensive attack with a 2-for-3 performance, two runs scored and three runs batted in. He has accounted for nine RBIs in the past two games.
Freshman shortstop Mitch Morales, Albaladejo, Newton and Spano each had one hit to round out the team's six-hit attack.
Rutgers only tallied three hits with Brian O'Grady, Bill Hoermann and Favatella reaching base. Ryan Fasano tossed an eight-inning complete game for the visitors and fell to 0-2 on the season. He allowed five earned runs and struck out four FAU batters.
Live audio and statistics of Saturday's game can be found at www.fausports.com. For season tickets contact the FAU Ticket Office at 1-866-FAU-OWLS.