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Rutgers falls to Hofstra in non-conference action

The Rutgers baseball team didn’t need the sun to feel great as it was coming in fresh off a five-game winning streak and looked to continue the positive vibes. To hit six wins in a row, it rested on the arm of true freshman left-handed pitcher Jared Bellissimo as the Scarlet Knights (13-20, 5-4) were set to take on Hofstra. 

The thoughts of six straight wins seemed legitimate as senior infielder Carmen Sclafani made his return to the starting lineup in fashion as he hit a single to left field to allow redshirt freshman infielder Tim Dezzi to cross home plate for the first run of the game. 

Senior outfielder Luke Bowerbank added on to Rutgers' first inning scoring charge with a single to the right side allowing true freshman infielder Chris Brito to cross home to make it 2-0 with two outs in the first. 

Bowerbank stole second to allow two runners in scoring position. Despite the opportunity to open the flood gates even further, true freshman outfielder Victor Valderrama flew out to the Pride's (8-24) right-fielder Jimmy Joyce to keep the damage at 2 runs.

After a quiet second and third innings for both teams, Hofstra scored its first run of the game which started with a two-out double by Hofstra shortstop Austin Gauthier. The next batter Anthony D’Onforio, capitalized with a double of his own to put the Pride on the board with a single run scored.

The Knights had an opportunity to get a run back on Hofstra on its end of the fourth inning as Bowerbank collected another single to reach first. True freshman catcher Peter Serruto chopped a single as Bowerbank sprinted from first to third to put him in scoring position with two outs. 

But, Rutgers squandered its opportunity as junior outfielder Kevin Blum might have reached on a single, but Serruto couldn’t reach second in time to extend the inning.

Hofstra had a scoring party in the sixth inning as it scored 5 runs to take the lead with some comfort. Head coach Joe Litterio took a risk in the sixth by putting true freshman right-handed pitcher Parker Scott on the mound. 

Scott walked his first batter Austin Pollack in four pitches. Two batters later, with Pollack on second following a sac bunt allowed him to advance, Vito Friscia mustered a single off of Scott as Polack hustled from second to home plate to tie the game at two. 

Following another walk by Scott to Austin Gauthier, the incompetent pitcher was taken out of the game for junior right-handed pitcher Steven Acosta, who would fair no better. 

After Litterio shipped Scott to the dugout, luck seemed to have turned on the Knights as an error by Sclafani loaded the bases with one out. Seconds later, right fielder Jimmy Joyce hit a bases-clearing double to put the Pride on top 5-2 at that point. 

The exclamation point of the inning came when Alex Sica hit an RBI single for Hofstra’s fifth run of the inning. Acosta struck out Sean Rausch, but the damage had already been done.

The next inning, Rutgers tried to start a rally as Blum reached first base on an error by the Pride's Anthony D’Onforio. The next batter sophomore outfielder Mike Nyisztor, powered a triple down the middle to notch their first run on the scoreboard in six innings. 

Dezzi was able to get his fellow teammate across home to cut the lead down to two to make it a 6-4 game with a groundout as Nyisztor was unaccounted for. 

The eighth and ninth innings were a breeze for Hofstra as it ended the Knights' five-game streak after Dezzi’s flyout in the bottom of the ninth gave it its 20th defeat of the season. 

“We walked two guys and gave an extra out in the sixth and they took advantage of it," Litterio said. “That was the difference. We had runners on base and in scoring position, but just didn’t get the big hit today."

Rutgers will be in tough company this weekend as it will be facing Purdue over Easter weekend.

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

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