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Rutgers sweeps midweek non-conference games

The Rutgers baseball team knows that it will be in for a tough battle when it travels to Ann Arbor, Michigan this weekend. But, the task at hand over the last two days featured Columbia on Tuesday, and Iona on Wednesday in contests that won’t affect its place in the Big Ten Standings. 

Despite the value, the Scarlet Knights (17-21, 7-5) continued their winning ways against two New York college baseball teams to continue their impressive season.

The first game saw Rutgers travel to New York City to take on the Lions (16-17, 11-4) a team that is actually in first place in the Ivy League conference.

The game was cooking in the second inning as the Knights put together a recipe for their first run which featured a single to center field from senior catcher Tyler McNamara. Senior infielder Carmen Sclafani grounded out, but allowed McNamara to advance to second. After a fly out from true freshman outfielder Victor Valderrama allowed McNamara to reach third base, true freshman catcher Peter Serruto chopped a single to draw first blood in the contest as McNamara safely crossed home plate.

Columbia responded with a run of its own in the same inning off the bat of Josh Nicoloff to tie the game at one in the second inning. The Lions looked to do more damage as singles by Joshua Solomon and Matt Cerfolio gave the team optimism to take the lead. 

But, Rutgers true freshman left-handed pitcher Jared Bellissimo struck out Jack Chernow got AJ DiFillipo to fly out.

Bellissimo went from breathing in relief to cheering in excitement as the Knights scored 5 runs in the third inning. Things all came to fruition after Columbia's pitcher tried to pick off sophomore infielder Mike Nyisztor who advanced to second. 

The failed pickoff attempt, flustered Sean Higgins and knocked him out of the game after just two batters and no outs in the third inning. His relief pitcher Billy Black started the downhill spiral as his first pitch of the day went rogue and allowed Nyisztor to safely steal another base. 

Two batters later, redshirt freshman infielder Tim Dezzi hit an infield single as the speedy Nyisztor completed his trip around the diamond for Rutgers' second run of the afternoon. 

Black would throw another wild pitch to allow Dezzi to advance to second base, and not too long after he walked McNamara. The two baserunners got inside the head of Black as they were both able to steal a base and advance runners to second and third with just one out. 

Sclafani then crushed a pitch out of Satow Stadium for a 3-run home run, his fifth of the year to give the Knights a 5-run lead. The next batter, true freshman infielder Chris Brito, also hit a home run to extend the lead to 6-1. That was all it took to get Black off the mound. 

The next man up, Jordan Chriss, was able to record the final two outs of the third inning, but by then it was too little too late.

Sclafani and Dezzi completed the hat trick today as they both went 3-for-5 and recorded 4 and 2 RBIs respectively.

The fourth inning saw Rutgers tack another run as junior infielder Kevin Welsh hit a two-out single with nobody on. Then, while Dezzi was up to bat, Welsh stole second to advance his position. Dezzi took advantage and hit a single to left field as Welsh sprinted for the Knights' seventh run of the contest. 

Columbia finally tacked 2 runs in the same inning as Chandler Bengston scored off a fielder’s choice to make it a 5-run game. The next batter, DiFillipo reached first off a throwing error by Sclafani to make it a 7-3 ball game. But, Rutgers wouldn’t let up as it would secure the win by a score of 8-5.

The next day, the Knights faced off against the Gaels (11-21, 5-7), a team that they were supposed to play seven weeks ago. Rutgers had a slight change in the rotation as junior right-handed pitcher Jack Parkinson made the start for the Knights.

Rutgers scored first in the opening inning as it scored 3 runs. The sequence started as Nyisztor made solid contact for a single. But, a throwing error by Iona shortstop Michael Gorman allowed Nyisztor to keep the gears going and reached second base. The next batter Welsh hit a single to right and Nyisztor used his speed to go score the games inaugural run. 

Welsh wanted to show off some of his speed as well but was caught stealing for the first out. But, Dezzi singled to get a man on base once again. Less than a couple minutes later, McNamara blasted a double down the left field line to bring home a sprinting Dezzi for the second run. 

Gorman committed another fielding error when trying to make a play which allowed McNamara to score from second to third to make the ball game a 3-0 contest with just one-third of an inning gone.

In the second inning the Knights tacked on 2 more runs to make it a 5-run game. The scoring came from Nyisztor who mustered a 2-run single to bring home senior outfielder Luke Bowerbank and Valderrama.

Rutgers' last scoring surge came in the third inning as it scored another pair of runs courtesy of Valderrama who hit a sacrifice fly to allow Brito to trot home. A few batters later, the Knights concluded their scoring for the day with Brito scoring on a wild pitch from the Gaels' relief pitcher Michael DeSanti as Rutgers led 7-1. 

The Knights would again go on to win, 7-3.

“We came out this week with a lot of innings to pitch and got through it pretty well,” said head coach Joe Litterio. “Jumping out to a big lead again relaxed the guys on the mound and they pounded the zone. We were able to pick up these two midweek wins and build momentum for the weekend, which was great.”

The Knights have been on a roll as they have won 11 of its last 15 contests and look to take that momentum to Ann Arbor as they take on Michigan.

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

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