Rutgers drops series against Ohio State
The Rutgers baseball team made its first ever trip to play at Ohio State over the weekend and engaged in a closely contested series.
After winning the first game of the series, the Scarlet Knights (16-19, 3-6) fell in the next two games, losing the road tilt against a notable Big Ten opponent.
They had some good moments in Ohio which they feel they can build from, but were hoping to pick up more wins on the trip.
“We came out on Friday with a lot of energy and played a very good ball game,” said head coach Joe Litterio. “We were able to hold onto our lead, but the next day we came out flat and didn’t have the same energy … On Sunday, we got back to being ready to go, but came up a little short in a pitcher’s duel.”
Things got off to a quick start for Rutgers against the Buckeyes (23-12-1, 3-6) as it won its first game at Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium.
In the opener of the series on Friday, the Knights received another ace-like performance from senior lefty Howie Brey (4-3).
Though he did not have all of his pitches working early in the game, he settled down with a long outing and another complete game victory.
After the Knights jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, the Buckeyes answered right back in their half of the inning by also scoring 3 runs to tie the game at 3.
From there, Brey began to lock in as he received more run support in the next few innings.
Senior catcher R.J. Devish knocked in sophomore third baseman Milo Freeman with an RBI single, and senior first baseman Chris Suseck later ripped a 2-run double to give the Knights a 6-3 lead.
Rutgers added a run in the third inning to extend its lead to 7-3, and its veteran southpaw pitched effectively with the lead for the remainder of the game.
He struck out six batters over the course of his nine innings, allowing 4 earned runs as the Knights held on to win 7-4.
He threw a career-high 130 pitches, showing impressive stamina in the ninth inning in striking out the side to end the game.
It was his second straight complete game victory in Big Ten play, as he continues to provide Rutgers with longevity and consistency in his outings.
“Going into that first inning, he didn’t have the usual Howie stuff, but then he started to figure it out,” Litterio said. “I felt that the ninth inning was his because of the way he fought through the first eight innings, and he really wanted it. I wasn’t going to take him out when he wanted it that badly.”
In the second game of the series, the Knights took a step backwards and were dropped by the Buckeyes, 11-3.
Junior Kyle Driscoll (3-4) struggled on the mound for Rutgers, giving up seven earned runs in 3 1-3 innings of work.
On the other side, starter John Havird pitched a solid game for the Buckeyes.
He stifled a potent Knights offense through seven innings of work, allowing just three hits and 2 runs en route to a victory.
It set up a rubber match between the Big Ten foes on Sunday afternoon, and the game turned out to be close like the first matchup.
Sophomore pitcher John O’Reilly made the start for Rutgers (0-3) and had a really solid outing, but took a tough-luck loss.
He provided a quality start with six innings pitched and three strikeouts, allowing just 2 earned runs.
It was one of his better starts of the season, and he felt that he was successful because he was able to throw strikes early in counts.
“I was able to get out of batters,” O’Reilly said. “I was talking to Howie (Brey), and he was telling to really focus on getting first-pitch strikes. I was able to do a good job of it, so that really helped me out.”
Unfortunately for him and his team, they were unable to figure out Ohio State starter Adam Niemeyer and the Buckeye bullpen.
The Knights only recorded four hits in the 2-1 loss, leaving four runners on base in the game and struggling to build any type of momentum.
Freeman had the best day at the dish for Rutgers, launching an opposite field solo home run for his second long ball of the season.
He finished with two hits on the day, and is now fourth on the team with 18 RBIs on the year.
Despite the loss, Freeman’s recent hot streak has been a positive sign for the Knights.
The sophomore has picked up his production in recent games, which he hopes to continue moving forward.
“I definitely feel like I am starting to see the ball better,” Freeman said. “I feel like I’m putting together better at-bats, that’s for sure.”