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Rutgers swept by Purdue over weekend

The Rutgers baseball team headed to West Lafayette, Indiana hoping to win its eighth series in the last nine weekends. Instead, it suffered something that only happened to it one other time this year.

The Scarlet Knights (22-18, 6-9) were swept for the second time in the last three weekend series, losing at Purdue (24-16, 10-4). It was the first time they lost a series to the Boilermakers, having won series' in 2015 and 2017. 

“Overall it was not very good,” said head coach Joe Litterio. “We came down here to try to win a series, but we didn’t swing the bats or field very well. I’m not very happy about the results.”

Rutgers committed five errors on the weekend, resulting in 4 unearned runs. The five errors matched the number it committed the last time it was swept, which was at Illinois two weeks ago.

The first game of the series saw senior pitcher John O’Reilly go seven innings, allowing 3 earned runs on nine hits, but he received no run support as the Knights were shut out, 4-0. It was O’Reilly’s first loss since opening day against Miami. 

“I think I did alright, but I’m a little disappointed that we couldn’t pull out a win on Friday night,” O’Reilly said. “The team has been giving me run support all year long, so I can’t really get too frustrated about that. I can only control what I can control. I know I can do better, but I gave my team a chance, which is all I can do.”

The team had a chance to take the lead early, loading the bases with one out in the second. But a strikeout and a flyout meant it came away with nothing, and Purdue made it pay by scoring 2 runs in the bottom of the frame. 

The score remained 2-0 for a few innings until the Boilermakers plated 1 in the sixth and 1 in the seventh, and stifled every Rutgers attempt at a comeback. Fifth-year senior first baseman Chris Folinusz led off the top of the ninth with a double, but the subsequent three batters were all retired.

Purdue ended the Knights’ hopes of winning the series the next day, winning 9-4. The Boilermakers scored 3 runs in the bottom of the first, but once again Rutgers loaded the bases in the second, this time with no outs. But, just like the day before, it wasn't able to bring across a run, and Purdue increased its lead to 5 in the bottom of the inning.

“It’s a big momentum shift for the other team,” Litterio said. “That’s why I preach two-out RBI's, because when we get the big hit with two outs, it’s a big momentum killer for the other team. When you get bases loaded with no outs and don’t score, it puts everybody in a tougher situation at the plate because now they’re starting to press a little bit, and the other team gets momentum off of that.”

Sophomore pitcher Tommy Genuario pitched a career-high four innings in relief for the Knights, allowing 2 runs on four hits with three strikeouts. The starter, freshman Harry Rutkowski, lasted three innings and allowed 7 runs on seven hits and four walks. After starting the season 4-0, he has taken the loss in his last four outings. 

Junior catcher Nick Matera drove in 2 of the 4 Rutgers runs and had two hits, tied with Folinusz and redshirt freshman shortstop Dan DiGeorgio for the team high. 

The Knights lost the series finale 1-0, suffering their third shutout of the season. After graduate student pitcher Karl Blum allowed an earned run in the first, the pitching staff combined to allow no more runs, but Rutgers was unable to even the score. 

Blum pitched a career-high five innings in the loss, and juniors Ryan Wares and Serafino Brito combined for three shutout innings. The two teams combined for seven hits and while the Boilermakers had eight runners reach scoring position, the Knights had just three.

“We had plenty of opportunities this weekend,” Litterio said. “We had plenty of guys in scoring position, we just never got the hit that would capitalize and break it open. It seemed like we were always playing from behind. When you do that, it’s tough to score runs.”

Rutgers now faces Columbia at home tomorrow before hosting Michigan for a weekend series, hoping to turn things around after a series that multiple players considered a letdown.

Still, there’s hope that they can turn it around as the season hits the final month.

“We didn’t score enough runs to win the games this weekend, but I think it’s part of baseball and we’re going through a bit of a slump right now,” said senior infielder Kyle Walker. “We’ll be swinging the bats soon enough, and we’re excited to get back out there this upcoming week.”

For updates on the Rutgers baseball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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