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Rutgers baseball defeats Penn State in Big Ten opener

O’Reilly pitches gem for first career complete game win.

West Virginia v Rutgers
Rutgers baseball celebrated a solid win.
Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images

Rutgers Scarlet Knights Baseball hosted Penn State to begin the Big Ten slate. Rutgers got the victory behind an outstanding pitching performance from John O’Reilly.

Friday: Rutgers 4, Penn State 1

Rutgers baseball offense and defense came out as cold as the weather Friday. Senior Starter John O’Reilly was betrayed by his defense on the first play of the game when shortstop Kevin Welsh could not connect with First Baseman Chris Folinusz. O’Reilly allowed a double to Connor Klemann then a sac fly for an unearned run, but nothing more and the Knights trailed 1-0.

The game remained that way until perhaps the biggest sequence in the contest in the top of the 5th. After back to back one out singles put runners at the corners, O’Reilly was able to pop up Klemann for the second out. After hitting a batter to load the bases, a younger pitcher may have been pulled from the game, but O’Reilly got a strike out to end the threat.

In the 6th, O’Reilly returned to form with three up, three down. The Rutgers offense woke up in a big way in the bottom half of the frame. Leadoff man Dan DiGeorgio singled then after falling behind in the count, Mike Nyisztor was able to work a walk as Penn State starter Justin Hagenman seemed a little distracted by DiGeorgio at first. After ensuring he got a strike, coach Joe Litterio made a tough decision to have slugger Nick Matera bunt. It worked as Matera was retired, but both runners moved into scoring position with only one out. Next up Chris Folinusz made up for his error in the first inning with a hot shot down the third base line. Though the ball was kept in the infield, DiGeorgio scored and Nyisztor was able to move over to third. Kyle Walker was able to push the lead run across with a sac fly and Rutgers led 2-1. Carmen Sclafani followed with a single that was misplayed and when the dust cleared, Rutgers had runners at second and third. Kevin Welsh, like Folinusz earlier in the inning, redeemed himself with a single up the middle scoring two more runs to push the advantage to 4-1.

O’Reilly was in the zone as he mowed down the Nittany Lions in the 7th and 8th with a low enough pitch count to come out for the 9th. He quickly disposed of the first two batsmen putting him one out away from his first career complete game. A pop up to Dan DiGeorgio and Rutgers won their Big Ten opener.

Decisive stat: 9 innings. O’Reilly allowed the unearned run in the first, pitched out of a jam in the 5th, and was completely masterful otherwise. He threw 119 pitches only allowing five hits, two walks, and a hit batsman. He struck out six, pushing his record to 2-1 on the year.

Notable: Walker continued his hitting streak and had the RBI sac fly. Sclafani was the only Scarlet Knight with two hits. Matera had a hit and has reached base safely in every game he has played this season. Jawuan Harris did not play.

Opponent notables: (Now that the Big Ten season is underway, key takeaways from conference rivals will be indicated here. Then our readers can all chip in when time to name an All-Big Ten baseball team at season’s end.) Catcher Ryan Sloniger had three of Penn State’s five hits. Justin Hagenman pitched pretty well in his own right over six frames, only allowing anything of note in the fateful 6th.

Next up

Tomorrow the same two teams do it again at 1pm. Probable starters - RU (Harry Rutkowski), Penn State (Taylor Lehman).

The series concludes Sunday at 1 pm. Probable starters - RU (Eric Heatter), Penn State (Dante Biasi).

Also noteworthy: Great job by the Rutgers baseball announcers (R.J. and Jake) on WRSU 88.7 in this one. Nothing fancy, but if you are a Knights fan, tune your radio dial or listen on the website this weekend.

This catch by Nyisztor was a little fancy though: