Rutgers wins second straight Big Ten series on road against Iowa
If the season ended today, the Rutgers baseball team would be in the Big Ten Tournament as the eight seed.
After another series win over the weekend against a conference team, the Scarlet Knights (15-22, 4-5) have taken two straight conference series and have won four of the their last five games against teams in the Big Ten — all coming after starting 0-4 in conference play.
After taking two of three against Purdue at home, Rutgers had its mind set on Iowa. Their first time traveling to Iowa City, the Knights made quick work of the Hawkeyes (23-15, 6-6) and returned home with two more conference wins.
Despite a tough start to the series in which Rutgers lost 8-3, the team rebounded nicely and found a way to win the next two games.
On Saturday, in a game that was broadcast on the Big Ten Network, the Knights picked up a much needed win after losing the night before. On the mound was sophomore right-hander Serafino Brito (3-6) who got the win by weaving in and out of trouble and stranding eight men on base. He finished his night by allowing 1 run on nine hits in six strong innings.
Senior left-hander Ryan Fleming came in to start the seventh and recorded five outs without allowing a run. After sophomore Ryan Wares got the final out in the eighth and one in the ninth, senior Max Herrmann closed things out by striking out the only two batters he faced.
Offensively, it was the bottom of the order for Rutgers that carried the way. The 5-6-7-8-and-9 hitters accounted for all of the Knights’ 10 hits on the night with junior designated hitter Chris Folinusz leading the way with three hits. Senior third baseman Christian Campbell, junior first baseman Milo Freeman and sophomore second baseman Carmen Sclafani each had two hits apiece.
On Sunday, with junior right hander John O’Reilly (4-5) on the hill, Rutgers was looking to take the rubber game and leave Iowa with a series win. They did just that.
Scoring early and often, the Knights went up 10-0 early to give their starter a lot of breathing room. Sophomore centerfielder Jawuan Harris led the way and got Rutgers off to a quick start.
A walk by Harris, a stolen base, a passed ball and a wild pitch all contributed to the first run of the game. After another walk and a single, Folinusz came up big and roped a 2-run double down the right-field line to make it an early 3-0 lead for the Knights.
After a scoreless second, Rutgers was hungry for more — batting around in the third inning and putting up a five-spot. Another Harris walk starting things off, this one followed by a run-scoring double off the bat of sophomore left fielder Mike Martinez. A single put runners on the corners for Campbell who promptly singled to bring home another run. After a sacrifice bunt advanced the runners, sophomore catcher Nick Matera drilled a 3-run home run, his fourth of the year, to make it 8-0.
Two more runs came into score in the fourth after Harris worked another walk, stole second, reached third on an error and trotted home in front of a Martinez triple. Senior right fielder Tom Marcinczyk followed with an RBI single to make it 10-0 as the Knights won by a score of 13-5.
Harris, Martinez, Marcinczyk, Campbell, freshman shortstop Kevin Welsh and senior first baseman Mike Carter recorded multiple hits. Carter continues to lead the Big Ten in batting average (.391) and hits (59). With his two steals on the day and three on the weekend, Harris now leads the conference in stolen bases at 22.
O’Reilly notched his third straight win by going five innings, giving up 5 runs on six hits. Pitching on his birthday, freshman Kyle Gerace came in for two innings of scoreless relief. Sophomore Kevin Romero and freshman Eric Reardon finished it off with an inning of work each.
Rutgers looks to keep the good times rolling and avenge a loss earlier in the season when they play Villanova on Tuesday at Bainton Field — the first of a five-game homestand for the Knights.
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