Rutgers squanders late lead, falls in extra innings
It was a quick trip up to South Orange for the Rutgers baseball team (14-17, 2-4) to play a Tuesday afternoon showdown against Seton Hall (23-10, 1-2) but it turned out to be a longer game than anticipated.
Playing their best baseball of the season and winning six of their last eight games heading into the matchup gave the Scarlet Knights some confidence, but they ultimately fell 7-6 to an in-state rival in a wild extra-inning contest.
After trailing 6-2 entering the ninth inning, the Pirates staged a 4-run rally to tie the game at 6-6, and then scored the winning run in the 10th inning.
The one-run defeat was the seventh loss in such fashion this season, as the Knights have found themselves in many winnable games only to come up just short.
Sophomore pitcher John O’Reilly (0-2) made his seventh start of the season for the Knights, and turned in a solid outing after running into some early trouble.
He gave up two runs in the first inning, but settled down to complete five innings, striking out four and leaving with a 4-2 lead.
His performance put the Knights in position to win, which is what head coach Joe Litterio is always looking to get from his starting pitchers.
Senior catcher R.J. Devish was key in pacing the Rutgers offense, just like he has been all season long.
The Beachwood, New Jersey, native led off the game with a base hit and came around to score on an RBI fielder’s choice from senior first baseman Chris Suseck, giving the Knights a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
He entered the game leading the Big Ten with an on-base percentage of .534 and saw that percentage increase by finishing with two hits and a walk.
While sparking Rutgers from the top of the order, his production has filtered down to the rest of the lineup, as the team finished with eight hits on the day.
After the early deficit, the Pirates bounced back with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning against O’Reilly to take a 2-1 lead.
On the mound for the Pirates was Matt Ardente (3-0), who had a short lived outing of 2 1-3 innings after he was knocked out in the top of the third.
He was replaced by Matt Leon after the Knights put runners on the corners, which eventually allowed them to tie the game.
Rutgers added a run in the frame to tie the game at 2-2, but broke through for a 4-2 lead after scoring a pair in the fifth inning.
Junior shortstop Gaby Rosa plated sophomore third baseman Milo Freeman with an RBI single, and Suseck then drove in Rosa on a single to give his team a 4-2 lead.
The Knights added a pair of insurance runs in the ninth inning to extend their lead to 6-2, but the Pirates staged a two-out rally in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game.
After junior Christian Campbell retired 2 of the first 3 hitters of the inning, Seton Hall recorded three walks and a pair of base hits, including the game-tying hit from Joe Poduslenko off junior Max Herrmann (0-1) to send the game to extra innings at 6-6.
The 4-run rally came at a time where Rutgers was looking to finish off the win and extend its winning streak to a season-high of four games, but the Pirates had other ideas.
With a chance to retake the lead in the top of the tenth inning, the Knights were blanked and it put the Pirates in position to win the game in their half of the inning.
Herrmann loaded the bases and the game came down to a 3-2 count with two outs, with Ryan Ramiz at the plate for Seton Hall.
The sophomore came through with an RBI single to win the game in walk-off fashion for the Pirates, as they scored the final 5 runs to win 7-6.
The hit also handed Herrmann his first loss of the season, culminating a tough end of the game for both he and Campbell.
Ramiz led the game with 3 RBIs, and his final one sealed an excruciating loss for Rutgers after it had led for most of the game.
The Knights will again see the Pirates tomorrow afternoon, but this time on the Banks at Bainton Field.
It is a quick turnaround for both teams, as they will look to each move past this one in short order to get ready for the second and final leg of the home-and-home series.