Indiana holds off Rutgers, completes three-game sweep
Head coach Joe Litterio doesn’t think any atmosphere he’s experienced quite matches up to the one the Rutgers baseball team had to endure throughout its weekend series in Bloomington, Indiana.
With a max capacity surpassing Bainton Field, the Scarlet Knights were truly at the mercy of one of the best home field advantages in college baseball –– and they failed to respond.
“Overall, I’m disappointed because we want to win baseball games. But looking back at the series, we played in front of 10,000 people this weekend,” Litterio said. “It was a great college baseball atmosphere –– the best I’ve seen since I started coaching. That’s something that we are going to have to get adjusted to. We aren’t used to playing in front of 3,500 people. When the momentum goes their way, the crowd gets going and you feel it a little more than if you were playing in front of 300 people.”
A pair of back-to-back losses to start the series this weekend left the Knights (11-23, 5-7) with a bad taste in their mouths heading into the third game against Indiana.
One of the top teams in the country for the past few seasons, the Hoosiers (21-11, 5-6) balked early this season sitting in the bottom half of the Big Ten Conference standings.
Rutgers went on to drop the final game 5-4, despite a comeback effort in the fifth inning of Sunday's matchup.
Sophomore right-hander Gaby Rosa struggled in his outing and earned his third loss of the season. The Perth Amboy High School (N.J.) product falls to 1-3 on the season after letting up eight hits and two earned runs –– five total –– in five innings on the bump.
But Litterio doesn’t think the second-year pitcher had all that bad of a game. Litterio admitted Rosa didn’t show his best stuff, but said the defense provided little support with three errors and some misplayed balls.
“With Gaby (Rosa) today, the defense let him down,” Litterio said. “He gave up three runs in the first inning with two errors –– so that’s tough for him. Other than that, he pitched okay. He didn’t have his best stuff –– they were hitting him pretty good. But he still did a good enough job to keep us in the game.”
Despite the less than stellar outing from Rosa and the Rutgers defense, the Knights kept it close throughout the game.
The tight margin was largely thanks to effective relief pitching by sophomore left-hander Max Herrmann and senior right-hander Jon Young –– who pitched the last three innings and allowed no runs –– and an explosion of offense in the fifth inning.
Down 4-0, the rally started off the bat of sophomore right fielder Tom Marcincyzk, who led off the inning with a single. A walk to senior left fielder Vinny Zarrillo and a hit by pitch to junior infielder Chris Suseck then loaded the bases.
Sophomore pinch hitter Chris Folinusz singled to left field to score one and catcher R.J. Devish followed it up with a two-run single of his own. Junior infielder John Jennings grounded out to second base, but Folinusz scored on the play to end the scoring for Rutgers.
The one frame may have been an outlier, but Zarrillo admitted that the Knights hit the ball well all game — they just failed to score in every other inning.
“We were swinging the bats well all day, but we connected for some runs in the fifth,” Zarrillo said. “That was great, but obviously we left a ton of runners on base and we are going to have to do a better job with that in these next couple of games. We definitely had our opportunities (Sunday), but we just didn’t cash in the runners like we wanted to. ... We had double-digit hits and the guys were swinging it well.”
Despite a rally in the fifth inning, the Knights did not add any more to the offensive tally. By the time the game was over, Rutgers left 14 runners on base and only put together one inning with more than two hits.
The problem for the Knights remains to be their inability to collect timely hitting with runners in scoring position. The lack of timely hitting is what haunts senior first baseman Joe D’Annunzio after the final game of the Indiana series sweep.
“We had runners on almost every inning,” D’Annunzio said. “But we couldn’t score them –– we left 14 or 15 runners on base. I left five runners on base myself, but we couldn’t cash in the rest of the game. We hit a bunch of line drives that got through, but we just couldn’t do it when it counted –– that’s what really hurt us. We should’ve been up early, but we just couldn’t get it done.”
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