Rutgers ends its 4 game skid in historic fashion
Playing its first home game since a victory over Iona on March 9, the Rutgers baseball team took advantage of familiar territory again and defeated in-state foe Monmouth (11-12), 20-4.
The Scarlet Knights (9-14) were looking for a bounce back win after getting swept by Michigan State over the weekend in their first Big Ten series of the season and delivered in front of their home fans in big fashion.
The 20 runs for Rutgers are the most it has ever scored at Bainton Field, which opened in 2007.
They will again play Monmouth tomorrow, this time on the road, but they were glad to end their four-game skid that has included some tough losses.
“It felt good for us to play like that today,” said head coach Joe Litterio. “We’ve been on the wrong end of a lot of one-run games, and for us to come out and score 20 runs was great. It’s great to see as a coach, and I’m sure the players enjoyed it.”
The Knights got on the board in the bottom of the second inning when outfielder Mike Martinez launched an opposite field two-run home run to put the Knights ahead of the Hawks, 2-0.
It was his first home run of the season, and gave the Knights a lead which they would not look back from.
But they were not done there.
After freshman outfielder Jawuan Harris scored on an error, senior first baseman Chris Suseck belted a 2-run home run to increase the Rutgers lead to 5-0.
It was the kind of outburst the offense has been searching for in recent games, and gave them the spark to maintain a lead for the rest of the game.
Freshman pitcher Serafino Brito (2-2) made his fourth start of the season and cruised through his first three innings before running into trouble in the fourth frame.
He finished with 3 2/3 innings pitched while allowing 3 earned runs and striking out one.
Brito leads the team with 10 appearances on the season. Though it was not his sharpest outing, he still contributed like he has in many games already in his young career.
“I’m just here to help my team in any way I can,” Brito said. “If Coach calls my name, I’m glad to go in and do my best to help the team win.”
Junior Ryan Fleming relieved Brito with runners for Monmouth on second and third base and two outs, with Rutgers holding a 6-3 lead.
He picked up a huge strikeout against Monmouth’s Robbie Alessandrine to put an end to the Monmouth rally, which cut the Knights’ lead in half.
Fleming earned his first win of the season after finishing with 2 1/3 innings, and prevented any hopes of a Monmouth comeback.
“When it was 6-3, Ryan Fleming did a great job of coming in and finishing that inning for us,” Litterio said. “That was a big moment of the game and he delivered.”
Rutgers got back on track during its time at-bat in the fourth, as sophomore third baseman Milo Freeman laced a double down the left field line to put the Knights ahead, 7-3.
He was followed by junior Christian Campbell, who ripped an RBI single that also saw another run come across after a Monmouth error, and increased the lead to 9-3.
With the team still at-bat, junior shortstop Gaby Rosa had an RBI double and senior catcher R.J. Devish hit an RBI single, as the Knights extended their lead to 11-3.
Junior outfielder Mike Carter then pulled an RBI double down the right field line that scored Harris and Devish, and later scored on an error to cap an eight-run lead for Rutgers that put it ahead 14-3.
For good measure, Martinez launched a solo home run in the fifth inning, as the Knights continued to run away with it at 15-3.
He went 2-for-3 and had three RBI, and helped lead a potent Rutgers offense in its return home.
“It’s good to get the first one out of the way, but I was just happy with how we played and to contribute to a win,” Martinez said.
The Knights kept attacking late in the game, adding five more runs to finish with 20.
For the game, Rutgers finished with 22 hits, compared to eight for Monmouth.
The Knights are now 3-0 at home early in the season, though they have spent most of their time on the road.
It’s back on the road for a short trip to Monmouth tomorrow afternoon, but then they return home for a weekend series against Indiana beginning on Friday.
Despite their outburst, they know they will need to quickly get ready to play the Hawks again tomorrow.
“We just have to focus on tomorrow because it’s a new day and a new pitcher,” Martinez said. “That’s baseball and with the right mindset, hopefully we’ll come away with a win.”