Rutgers extends impressive home record in 12-8 win over Delaware State
A beautiful sunny day at Bainton Field seemed to be the perfect setting for the Rutgers baseball team to get back on track after dropping a series against Ohio State last weekend.
The Scarlet Knights (17-19, 3-6) proved their strength is playing at home once again by beating Delaware State (9-27, 9-5) 12-8, Tuesday afternoon.
Things started off slow for the Knights in this game, as they traded leads with the Hornets back and forth until late in the game when they broke ahead for good.
Despite the slow start, it was the kind of all-around effort Rutgers was hoping to see as it is in the midst of 15 games in 20 days, and it led the Knights to a bounce back victory.
“A win is always good to get,” said head coach Joe Litterio. “I was hoping to come out with a little more energy because those guys came out to play and were really swinging the bats. But we got some big hits in big spots, along with some good pitching out of the pen and it was enough to win.”
On the mound for Rutgers was junior Christian Campbell, as the Sayreville, New Jersey, native made his first start of the season.
The versatile Campbell, who is both an infielder and a pitcher, struggled to find a rhythm in his outing.
He surrendered nine hits across 3 1-3 innings, allowing 3 earned runs in the process and leaving the Knights with a 4-2 deficit.
After getting into a jam in the fourth inning, he was replaced by freshman Kevin Romero, who did a fine job by not allowing an earned run in 1 2-3 innings of work.
The bullpen was forced to do most of the work for Rutgers in the game, and took advantage of its opportunity.
They combined to give up just 2 runs in 5 2-3 innings pitched, with senior Reed Shuttle (1-2) shouldering the bulk of the load and earning the win.
He pitched three innings and allowed 3 earned runs, but struck out five and left with a 12-8 lead.
Junior lefty Ryan Fleming closed it out in the ninth inning and set the Hornets down in order to hold on for the 12-8 win.
It was crucial for the bullpen to give the Knights some effective innings after they did not get a lengthy outing from Campbell, and they succeeded in keeping Rutgers ahead when it had a lead.
“It’s always important to have guys who can come out and throw strikes, which we have on our team,” Fleming said. “Reed and Kevin came out and did their jobs, and it was good to be able to finish off the game.”
The Knights jumped on the board in their first time at-bat in the opening frame, pouncing on Hornets' starter Cole Davis for a pair of runs.
Senior first baseman Chris Suseck laced a double to right field, and was later followed by a sacrifice-fly from senior second baseman John Jennings to put Rutgers ahead 2-0.
After Romero replaced Campbell in the fourth, the Knights responded with some offensive firepower in their half of the frame.
Freshman catcher Nick Matera ripped an RBI double to the centerfield wall to score sophomore third baseman Milo Freeman, which cut the Hornets lead to 4-3.
He was followed by a line drive single from junior shortstop Gaby Rosa, and it set up runners on the corners to knock Davis out of the game.
The big hit came from sophomore Kyle Walker with the game tied at 4-4.
He replaced Suseck in the fourth inning and delivered with a two-run double in the right-centerfield gap to give Rutgers a 6-4 lead.
It was just the second hit of the season for Walker, who also added a sacrifice-fly later in the game, but it came at an opportune time for his team in a game which looked it could he slipping away from them.
“If felt awesome to be able to pick the team up in that spot,” Walker said. “I think it can get some momentum going for me at the plate and it was a big hit for the team.”
With the game nodded at 6 headed into the bottom of the sixth inning, junior outfielder Tom Marcinczyk broke through with the decisive play of the game.
Coming up with the bases loaded, he launched a go-ahead, 3-run triple to stake the Knights ahead 9-6.
They were not done in the inning, as they added 2 more runs to take an 11-6 lead heading into the seventh.
It proved to be enough for them to hold onto, as the bullpen did the rest and held the lead.
Marcinczyk’s extra-base hit was pivotal in sealing the win for the Knights, as they never looked back after it.
“Marcinczyk put that triple out there and it put the nail in the coffin,” Litterio said. “It gave us the lead and helped our guys to relax a bit more.”
There will again be no rest for Rutgers, as it is back on the field tomorrow afternoon in a road contest against Wagner (10-22, 5-11).
Litterio was the head coach at Wagner for 12 seasons before coming to Rutgers, and he is the all-time wins leader in Seahawks program history with 240 victories at the helm.
His history at Wagner naturally makes it a game in which the Knights look forward to, but he is stressing to the team that it is just as important as any other game.
“It’s my second time going back to Wagner, and it brings back memories going there,” he said. “I was there for over a decade, so going back to the field is meaningful, but at the end of the day, it’s just another game that we have to try to win as a team."