Rutgers squanders late lead in loss to Rider
The Rutgers baseball team (8-11) tried to carry its momentum from a Saturday victory over NJIT into its game on Wednesday against in-state foe Rider (3-14), but blew a late lead and fell, 3-2.
The Scarlet Knights have played in many close games of late, as this marked the fifth game decided by one run in their last eight games.
For the Knights, it was the last nonconference game before Big Ten play, along with their eighth straight game away from home.
They saw a strong pitching performance throughout the game, but were unable to capitalize offensively with runners in scoring position.
Brett Kosciolek started for Rider and threw seven innings and struck out five while allowing four hits.
He seemed to keep the Knights off balance at the plate, leading to some frustrating at-bats.
“I was disappointed with our approach today,” said head coach Joe Litterio. “We had a lot of first pitch pop-ups, and their starter did a nice job of attacking the zone and not getting us into deep counts. He did a nice job.”
Freshman pitcher Serafino Brito earned the start for the Knights, and delivered with five innings of work and just one earned run, while striking out three.
It was his team-leading ninth appearance of the season, as he has made three starts and come out of the bullpen six times.
Junior pitcher Christian Campbell came on in relief of Brito, and threw three impressive shutout innings and struck out seven.
Offensively, the Knights got on the board in the third inning when freshman outfielder Luke Bowerbank scored on a groundout by junior outfielder Tom Marcinczyk.
That gave Rutgers a 1-0 lead, but the Broncs tied it in the bottom of the fourth inning when Tyler Kaiser hit a solo home run off Brito to make it a 1-1 game.
The teams remained tied until the eighth inning, when Marcinczyk again came through for the Knights with a solo home run to give them a 2-1 lead.
It was his team-leading fourth homer of the year, and it seemed to give the Knights the decisive run they were looking for.
But things fell apart for Rutgers in the bottom of the ninth, as the Broncs scored twice in their final turn at-bat to win the game in walk-off fashion, 3-2.
Junior pitcher Kevin Baxter entered the game for the Knights in the ninth but was unable to record an out and was replaced by junior Max Herrmann.
After Rider got the first two runners on base in the inning off Baxter, third baseman Mike Volaski hit a sacrifice-fly that scored both runners from second and third base, giving the Broncs a 3-2 win.
Paul Sparano recorded the win for Rider with allowing one run in two innings of relief.
The Knights had their chances in this one to try to grab an earlier lead, but were 0-for-7 at the plate with runners in scoring position.
They were also active on the bases, as Marcinczyk recorded a stolen base and freshman outfielder Jawuan Harris also swiped a pair to increase his Big Ten-leading total to 13.
A problem stemmed from the outfield alignment of Rider, as they were playing deep in the outfield to prevent extra base hits, and it led to the Knights flying out 11 times.
It was still disappointing for Rutgers to have just five hits in the game, and they hope to see that turned around quickly as they get ready for their first Big Ten series over the weekend against Michigan State.
“They were playing ‘no-doubles,’ defense and we just kept hitting fly balls,” Litterio said. “We hit the ball well but they were back pretty deep and we were hitting it right at them. We didn’t do a very good job making an adjustment at the plate today … We didn’t have as many productive at-bats where we worked the count as we wanted to see.”
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