Rutgers edges Rider for non-conference win

The Rutgers baseball team was eager to get back on track after being on the receiving end of a clean sweep against Michigan on the road this past weekend. The Scarlet Knights (18-24, 7-8) were able to emerge victorious against Rider, hanging on to win 5-4.

On the mound for Rutgers was true freshman left-handed pitcher Jared Bellissimo, who was undefeated coming into this game.

In the Knights' half of the second inning, Joe Papeo came off the mound for the Broncos (13-31) after the first inning despite delivering a 1-2-3 performance to start the game. Papeo was relieved by Anthony Arneth who was on the receiving end of Rutgers' first run of the day. 

It all began after senior infielder Carmen Sclafani hit a one-out single down the middle of the field to be the Knights' first base runner of the game. During junior infielder Kevin Welsh’s at-bat, Sclafani advanced his position by stealing second. 

Welsh then squeaked a single through the right side of the field allowing Sclafani to sprint through the second half of the diamond to give Rutgers a 1-0 advantage. Before any more damage could be done, true freshman outfielder Victor Valderrama struck out and Welsh was tagged out a second.

The sixth inning saw the Knights puncture their 1-0 lead and extend it by two scores. True freshman infielder Chris Brito stepped up and hit a one-out single to put Rutgers in business. 

Brito was then able to steal second to bring a runner in scoring position, and then senior catcher Tyler McNamara, the designated hitter, singled to the right to put runners at the corners. 

Arneth was taken out of the game after pitching four and one-third innings as a relief pitcher. Rider's next man up was Jordan Silverman and while Sclafani grounded out for the second out, Brito crossed home plate, doubling the Knights' lead. 

But, Rutgers' next batter, Welsh, chopped a single to the right side allowing McNamara to join Brito. Welsh was anxious to keep the flow going that as he was attempting to steal second, he was tagged out for the second time on the diamond’s middle base for the third out. 

But, the Knights knew they were in control up 3-0, two-thirds of the way through.

The next inning saw Rutgers score another 2-run flurry. Following a four-batter outing for Bellissimo, the Knights went right back to work as Valderrama mustered a single to right field. 

The next batter true freshman catcher Peter Serruto grounded out, but in the same token, Valderrama sprinted to second base. The next batter junior outfielder Kevin Blum was able to reach first base off an error by Rider's Kyle Johnson as Valderrama stayed put at second. 

Sophomore outfielder Mike Nyisztor chopped into a grounder at first for out No. 2, but Blum and Valderrama were able to inch closer to home as they advanced to second and third base, respectively. Silverman would eventually be taken out for Zach Gakeler. 

Gakeler then gave up a 2-run single on his first at-bat to redshirt freshman infielder Tim Dezzi as Valderrama and Blum crossed home plate to give the Knights a 5-0 lead. Gakeler nailed Rutgers' first baseman with a pitch. 

Gakeler got out of a jam as McNamara grounded into a fielder’s choice. 

The eighth inning saw Bellissimo escape after facing four batters for the fourth time that afternoon. He hung in there for eight scoreless innings and only allowed five hits off of 94 pitches. 

After a standing ovation from the Bainton Field crowd, Bellissimo got to take a well-deserved rest in the dugout for true freshman right-handed pitcher Garrett French to pick up the victory for the Knights.

French got off to a rough start as the Broncos' outfielder Sebastian Williamson notched a single to put them in business for a score. Two batters later, first baseman Riley Mihalik chopped a single to left field as Williamson hustled to third, putting runners at the corners with one out. 

The next batter Jack Peterson chopped another single to left to end Rutgers' shutout bid. Kyle Johnson continued the rally with a single of his own to the aforementioned left field to bring home Mihalik. 

The Knights' sophomore right-handed pitcher Kyle Muller then came in to preserve the victory. His first batter, Zach Fick, was walked on five pitches to bring home Peterson. With two outs, Muller had the tying run on third with two outs. Muller responded with a game-ending fly out from David Bermudez to retain victory.

Rutgers gets ready to travel to face Penn State this weekend.

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

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