Rutgers Blanks South Florida, 10-0

Rutgers Athletics

Brey's gem, third inning explosion by the offense helps Scarlet Knights make presence known in AAC Tournament with a bang.

At first glance, baseball lovers everywhere will point to the lineup.

They'll salivate over the dominating performance at the plate where the Rutgers batters looked as if they were swinging at beach volleyballs. An eight-run inning in the third will be looked at as the game-changer that guided the Rutgers baseball team to a win.

All of the above is true. But what shouldn't be swept under the rug is the night that Howie Brey had on the mound.

The sophomore lefty got one run of cushion in the first inning and -- despite the offensive outburst that followed afterward -- proved that it was all he needed. The ace of the staff struck out four and walked one in a two-hit shutout over seven innings of work as the No. 4 Scarlet Knights (30-23) blanked No. 5 South Florida (26-30), 10-0, in a mercy-rule-shortened win.

Brey was so locked-in that at one point, he had retired 13 batters in a row.

"It was great, especially getting into a groove like that late in the game like that," Brey said after the game to Jeff Brightwell of The American Digital Network. "You feel like you're in a rhythm. You feel like you can make some mistakes and you'll be OK about it."

The Knights drew first blood with a RBI-single by junior left fielder Vinny Zarillo, bringing in freshman centerfielder Mike Carter, who led off the game for Rutgers by getting on with an infield single.

Rutgers, which completed a three-game sweep of the Bulls 10 days prior at Bainton Field, tattooed South Florida pitchers in the series finale on May 11 in a 12-2 win.

In the third inning of this one, the Knights picked up right where they left off.

A one-out solo shot to right field by senior first baseman Brian O'Grady got the wheels going. Then, Rutgers went on an all-out hitting assault.

Four consecutive singles and a walk later, Rutgers had a 4-0 lead and knocked out South Florida starter Casey Mulholland.

But wait -- there's more.

With Lawrence Pardo in on relief and the bases loaded, sophomore catcher R.J. Devish turned the first pitch he saw into a two-run single to flip the lineup. Carter's RBI-single after opened the flood gates and made it a 7-0 ballgame.

At that point, eight batters had reached base safely for Rutgers.

O'Grady, who started the trend, put the exclamation mark on it with a RBI-double to ultimately give Rutgers a 9-0 lead after three.

"We've been real hot lately," O'Grady said. "I was just looking for a good pitch to hit and I put a good swing on it and, you know, everyone just kept going from there on."

The senior ended his night 2-for-4 with two RBI.

Zarillo was a perfect 4-for-4, and like O'Grady and Devish, had two RBI to his name.

Rutgers head coach Joe Litterio took note of the balance of his team's two powers at the plate and on the mound that contributed to the opening win in pool play.

"That's kind of team we've been all year -- we're an offensive team," Litterio said. "But the pitching has been carrying us, though. I mean, it's great to see these young kids come in with confidence and be able to hold a team like that to no runs tonight."

Literrio had praise for Brey, who's stepped into the big role of being the team's ace and a proven leader despite being just a sophomore.

"He's a sophomore, but he's the veteran of our staff. That's the funny thing. We follow him up with two freshmen, and in the [bull]pen our freshmen. So, he's taken on that role this year of being only sophomore, but being a leader. And way to start off Game One."

After a day off on Thursday, Rutgers resumes play on Friday to continue pool play against No. 8 Memphis. All games can be viewed online here.

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