If the Rutgers softball team's season was disappointing in its conclusion, then baseball's was gut-wrenching and crushing. Making the Big Ten Baseball Tournament was a long shot, but not impossible.
Then came game one of the Northwestern series. Your ace is on the mound. And he gives up a two- run home run in the first inning. It was all the Wildcats needed, topping RU, 5-1. And with the loss, the postseason hopes were dashed.
There was still a winning season to achieve. But in game two, a five run lead is wiped out by an eight-run inning, most of it with two outs. Starter sophomore John O'Reilly deserved a better fate, as he left in line to win after working 6.2 innings on the mound. The right-hander struck out five in the career-high 116-pitch outing.
No Big Ten tournament, no winning season. But one game left to play, and it was for the seniors. Prior to Saturday's series finale, RU honored its six-member senior class in a ceremony. The group includes Kevin Baxter, Howie Brey, R.J. Devish, John Jennings, Reed Shuttle and Chris Suseck.
Thank you seniors! pic.twitter.com/FmiOCDx295— Rutgers Baseball (@BaseballRU) May 21, 2016
The finale was successful as the Knights (27-28, B1G 9-15) finished the season with a win, 10-7, over Northwestern. The Cats scored three in the top of the first, but RU took the lead with four in the bottom of the opening frame. Not wanting this to be an artistically pleasing game, Northwestern scored another three in the second. The Wildcats continued scoring - as did RU - until the Knights finally put the game away with three runs in the bottom of the eighth.
Ryan Fleming (5-0) got the win with six innings of one-run ball. Senior Reed Shuttle picked up his fourth save. R.J. Devish and Mike Carter each had two hits, while Chris Suseck had his second four-hit game of the season. Freshman Jawuan Harris added two RBIs and swiped his 37th base of the season, third-most in a year in program history.
The Knights needed some help from other teams and did not get that. Maryland topped MSU on Saturday, 6-4, to get to 13 wins; even if RU swept Northwestern (15-39, B1G 7-17), it would not have been enough to make it to Omaha.
The Big Ten Baseball Tournament opens on Wednesday at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha
Around the Horn
Fred Hill Training Center Construction -- Photo gallery
It's taken a while to get started, but the indoor training facility for baseball and softball is under construction. The $3 million facility - funded entirely with private funds - is being constructed beyond the left field fence of Bainton Field, just off Hospital Road. While little more than construction fencing and some footings now, the facility is a welcome addition. It is the first new athletic building on Livingston since the RAC.