Rutgers defeats Lafayette in low scoring affair, has eyes set on Illinois
This past Wednesday, the Rutgers baseball team defeated the Lafayette Leopards during a home game at Bainton Field.
The Rutgers-Lafayette baseball rivalry dates back to the 19th century, and both teams have played each other almost every year since it started. While each team has had periods of success, it’s the Scarlet Knights who have had the upper hand over the past quarter-century, and Wednesday was no exception.
Rutgers (18-11, 4-2) held the Leopards (12-21, 2-8) scoreless through the first six innings en route to a 4-2 victory at home. The Knights improved to a season-high seven games above .500 with the win, reaching that mark for the first time since 2014.
Rutgers has now won 23 of the last 24 games played between the two teams since 1994. The tie in the only game it didn’t win means the Knights haven’t lost this matchup in almost 25 years.
With the game being a low-scoring affair, the key to the team’s victory was successful pitching and defense. Graduate student pitcher Karl Blum — making his second start of the season — threw four scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out four.
Sophomore pitcher Tommy Genuario continued the game with two scoreless innings of his own and allowed one hit. As for the defense, there were no errors during the game, and sophomore second baseman Kevin Welsh flashed the leather with a couple of gems, such as a leaping catch in the eighth inning.
On offense, the team came alive after three innings to break a scoreless tie. Freshman left fielder Mike Nyisztor singled, advanced to third on a single from junior catcher Nick Matera and scored on a wild pitch. Matera would come around to score on a double by fifth-year senior infielder Chris Folinusz.
“Seeing the pitcher the second time around was definitely helpful. You get to see him during your at-bat and you also get input on everyone else’s at-bat. We all got together to see what adjustments we could make, and put some runs on the board," Folinusz said to RVision.
The other 2 Rutgers runs came in the sixth, as Nyisztor got the rally started once again with a single, and he and Folinusz would eventually score on a two-out triple by junior center fielder Jawuan Harris.
But, Lafayette would not go down quietly and started the seventh by loading the bases with no outs. It would score 2 runs on a walk and a wild pitch, but that was all it would get, as freshman pitcher Collin Kiernan and junior pitcher Serafino Brito combined to strike out the next three batters.
“For me, it’s always about picking guys up, and I came in, got us out of a jam, and threw the ball really well. I try not to do too much, I just try to locate my pitches and get out with as little damage as possible,” Brito said.
The seventh was the last time the Leopards threatened in the game, as Brito pitched a perfect eighth, and junior Ryan Wares pitched around a walk in the ninth to earn his first save this year.
The Knights now return to Big Ten play for the first time in a while and faces a test at No. 18 Illinois (20-8, 6-3), their third top-25 opponent this season.
The Fighting Illini have one of the top players in the country in junior Bren Spillane, who is in the top five nationwide in multiple offensive categories. He’s second in batting average (.447), third in home runs (14), fifth in on-base percentage (.532), and first in both slugging percentage (1.010) and OPS (1.542).
In addition to big numbers, Spillane has racked up a large number of accolades this season.
He has earned three Big Ten Player of the Week awards, two Collegiate Baseball Newspaper National Player of the Week Awards and has been named the Midseason Player of the Year by both D1Baseball.com and Perfect Game/Rawlings. He was also named to the watchlist of the Golden Spikes Award, which is given to the top amateur baseball player in the country.
Following the series, Rutgers plays another midweek non-conference game at Monmouth, before returning home for a series against Nebraska.
For updates on the Rutgers baseball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.