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McNamara's walkoff homer in 15th gives Rutgers win over Ohio State

The start of the Big Ten season for the Rutgers baseball team took place on Friday afternoon at Bainton Field. After playing 19 of their first 21 games on the road, the Scarlet Knights (7-17, 1-2) were set for a weekend home stand against Ohio State.

The first game between the red-uniformed teams started off with a blooper in the first inning, as the Buckeyes' (16-12, 2-1) Matt Carpenter was able to score off of a failed pickoff attempt by Rutgers' sophomore starting left-handed pitcher Harry Rutkowski who tried to catch Conner Pohl stealing at first, but failed to execute as Ohio State nabbed the first run of the game.

After a back-and-forth game, that was tied in the ninth and sent to extra innings the 11th inning proved to be a deciding factor as Carpenter hit a 2-run double off of senior right-handed pitcher Serafino Brito to propel the Buckeyes to a 5-3 victory. 

“I think we showed a lot of heart in the ninth inning to score the tying run," said head coach Joe Litterio.

On Saturday, the Knights had two opportunities to make up for Friday's extra inning loss, and after a 2-0 loss in Game One, Rutgers found itself right back in extra time in Game Two. 

The Knights began Saturday’s second act of a doubleheader as true freshman infielder Chris Brito hit an RBI single to put the team up 1-0 in the second inning. Compared to the first game, Rutgers was able to draw contact as it accumulated 10 hits.

While the Knights started Game Two of the season differently, the Buckeyes' Brady Cherry remained the same, as he jacked another ball out of Bainton Field to take the lead 2-1 in the top of the third inning. 

Cherry had a solid outing on the Banks as he batted went 3-10 across both games with four RBIs. 

While Cherry’s bomb was responsible for the only runs that scored in Game One, it proved to be the difference maker. This time around, Rutgers would not let a Cherry bomb end its day again. 

A rejuvenated Knights team responded back immediately as redshirt freshman infielder Tim Dezzi tied the game in the bottom of the third inning with a RBI single. Rutgers had the momentum. But, nobody from either team would score for another 12 innings.

During the 12-inning grind from the 4th to 15th innings, Ohio State stranded 12 runners on base in total, and blew its biggest opportunity in the fifth inning, where it had a man on second and third with one out. 

Following a muffed throw by junior left-handed pitcher Tevin Murray that put the Buckeyes in position to score, he responded back by striking out Zach Dezenzo, and a fly out for Dillon Dingler allowed Murray to avert disaster.

The Knights also suffered their biggest blow in the fifth inning as they had senior catcher Tyler McNamara and Dezzi on second and third base respectively, but true freshman outfielder Victor Valderrama’s foul out cut their optimism short. 

Rutgers left seven players on base during the aforementioned 12-inning stalemate, and as the sun waned down in Piscataway, many wondered if this game would end in a tie.

The 15th inning was potentially the final opportunity to score before the refs could potentially rule a draw, noticing the situation. McNamara, who had made more contact than anybody all game long, ended the drought with an RBI single that ran through the left side to bring home junior infielder Kevin Welsh. 

The walk-off hit was McNamara’s fourth hit of the day, which also gave the Knights their seventh win of the season.

“When you get into these conference series, one win could be the difference at the end of the year,” Litterio said. "That's something we talked about between games today. We had tough losses in the first two games of this series and were in another tight game. We kept hanging in there. Our defense and pitching stepped up big time late in that game."

Rutgers looks to continue its momentum on Wednesday as it takes on Wagner from the comfort of Bainton Field. 

This contest will prove to be the last of a five-game home stand for the Knights before they go on the road for five more games.

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

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