Keep hope alive. Works for Rutgers Baseball.
It’s sort of a question of the glass being half full or half empty. When the weekend started, RU Baseball was in eighth place and - at that snapshot moment - in the Big Ten tournament. And they did beat the No. 17 team on Friday in a barrage of runs.
But the Knights (16-25, 5-7 B1G) dropped the next two to the Wolverines while Michigan State took two of three from Northwestern. In doing so, Sparty and RU switched places in the standings, nudging RU out of the eighth and final spot for the tourney. But that’s not until Memorial Day weekend, so there is lots of time to take care of business.
In the series opener, soph Carmen Sclafani did indeed put two over the fence as the Knights put together a six-run sixth inning to win. Chris Folinusz hit a three-run double, freshman Kevin Welsh went 3-for-4 with two runs and an RBI, and sophomore Nick Matera added a pair of doubles. Senior Mike Carter picked up his 200th career hit to become the 16th player in program history to reach the mark. Gaby Rosa picked up the win with 5.2 innings of solid work.
The middle game on Saturday saw RU take a 3-2 lead but couldn’t hold it, dropping a 6-3 decision to Michigan. Welsh extended his hitting streak to nine game with a two-run triple. The finale on Sunday was an 8-3 loss. The Knights were down by seven early, but the pullpen held serve, giving Rutgers a chance to recover. But the Wolverines held RU to just four hits on the afternoon.
Rutgers has three Big Ten series left, and two are against teams that are behind it in the standings. The toughest series is coming up this weekend as the Knights head to Lincoln for three games against second-place Nebraska (26-16-1, 9-5-1 B1G). The Huskers’ hitting is actually less than Rutgers’ (.270 team BA to the Knights’ .276). Pitching is another story; Nebraska’s staff is second in the conference with a 3.58 ERA.
The two series after that will be critical, though, for Rutgers to make its move for the post-season. They come home for a weekend series against Illinois and then close out the season at Northwestern. Both of those squads are behind the Knights in the standings.
If you want to do some scoreboard watching, Michigan State has three series, too, and on paper has the tougher schedule. It faces Iowa at home, Nebraska on the road, before finishing the season in a split series against Michigan (two home, one in Ann Arbor).
Indiana, currently in seventh place, only has two conference series remaining, and both are against poor squads. The Hoosiers face Penn State at home before traveling to Columbus to finish the season against the Bucks.
Softball drops two
Sharing the home spotlight over Rutgers Day weekend with baseball, the softball squad also dropped two of three to Michigan State (27-20, 8-12 B1G). Going into extra innings on Friday, Rutgers lost 4-2 despite sophomore Whitney Jones going a career-high eight innings, allowing no walks and posting six scoreless innings. Junior Sierra Maddox led RU with two hits and two RBIs.
The Knights took the middle game with a 6-5 walk off win. Jones took the win thanks to Maddox’ walk off single. The finale on Sunday was not nearly as close as the Spartans put up 14 runs enroute to the 14-2 win. The Knights are currently 13-33, 4-14 B1G.
Softball closes out its schedule with five Big Ten games - all at home starting on Wednesday with a doubleheader against the Terps.