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Rutgers Baseball takes series with Penn State

Team drops Sunday contest to miss out on sweep: Matera injured.

West Virginia v Rutgers

Rutgers Baseball defeated Penn State Friday and Saturday so in the finale, the Scarlet Knights looked to bring their brooms. Rutgers was undone by poor control and a suddenly struggling offense.

Friday: Rutgers 4, Penn State 1

O’Reilly’s complete game was enough to win a tough pitcher’s duel.

Saturday: Rutgers 1, Penn State 0.

Rutgers offense got an unearned run to back Rutkowski, Kiernan, and Brito.

Sunday: Penn State 9, Rutgers 3.

For the second straight day a true freshman got his first taste of Big Ten action, this time it was Eric Heatter. The lefty had spun three straight quality starts but faced a huge jam in the top of the first inning after allowing three straight hits with one out. Dan DiGeorgio made two straight plays at second base to keep the Nittany Lions off the board.

Penn State broke through with a solo homer from Connor Klemann in the 3rd followed by a two out error by Kevin Welsh to stake the Nittany Lions to a 2-0 lead. Welsh was tagged with yet another error, but this one was a tough play. DiGeorgio singled to left with one out in the bottom half but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.

In the 4th Heatter allowed a leadoff hit to the 9th place hitter Conlin Hughes. After attempting a few pickoffs, his next pitch allegedly hit Jordan Bowersox, though the replay showed the call was questionable at best. Ryan Sloniger then faked a bunt but drew the bat back for an old-fashioned butcher boy play that popped into right to load the bases with no one out and Klemann coming up.

Joe Litterio removed Heatter from the game and replaced him with bridgeman Tommy Genuario. Klemann took a big cut looking for a grand slam, but centerfielder Jawuan Harris tracked the ball down for a long sacrifice fly. A comebacker to Genuario got the second out of the inning, but he walked the next two men followed by a hit batsman to force in two runs with the sacks still full. A wild pitch scored yet another two-out run before a strikeout finally ended the inning and a 6-0 Penn State lead.

The bottom of the frame began with a bang as Nick Matera hit a home run into the wind for Rutgers first run of the game. Next, Klemann made an outstanding play to rob Chris Folinusz of an extra base hit. Jawuan Harris followed with a double to left field then advanced to third on a wild pitch. The team’s leading hitter Carmen Sclafani struck out for the second out though. Kevin Welsh’s grounder up the middle could not sneak through and the inning ended with the score 6-1.

Eric Reardon pitched a clean inning and Ryan Wares followed with a zero of his own. Slugger Nick Matera was lost to an injury to his bare hand in the process though. Hopefully the injury isn’t serious since Matera is the best power hitter on a team starved for extra base hits. It was a big blow as Nick was scheduled to leadoff the bottom of the inning. Rutgers still threatened with two on, one out and Sclafani again at the plate but he flied out to center. Welsh struck out to strand both runners.

Karl Blum pitched around a leadoff walk, but surrendered a two-out ground-rule double to Ryan Sloniger. He recovered to strike out Klemann to strand Sloniger at second base but not before the score was Penn State 7, Rutgers 1 heading into the 7th inning stretch.

A bizarre bottom of the 7th inning began with pinch hitter Kyle Walker popping out, but then Luke Bowerbank reached on a dropped fly ball in left field. DiGeorgio followed with a double. Mike Nyisztor then hit a liner to second base that appeared to be caught. The umpire then ruled it no catch and Nyisztor beat the delayed throw as the other runners stayed put. With bases loaded it was not injured Matera but Tyler McNamara. McNamara beat out a potential double play ball up the middle for an RBI. Chris Folinusz could not capitalize on the extra life and stranded both runners on the corners to end the threat.

Penn State added two insurance runs in the 9th, Rutgers countered with one for a 9-3 final.

Decisive stat: 0 walks. Penn State starting pitcher Dante Biasi came into the game with a 6.14 ERA, but only a .182 batting average against as his problem earlier in the year was with control. He did a great job making Rutgers put the ball in play as did the Nittany Lion bullpen who also avoided any free passes. Conversely, 13 men reached base for Penn State in the first four innings (including 3 walks, 2 HBP). Overall, RU pitchers walked six and hit three on the day. Penn State outhit Rutgers just 13-12 so it was the base on balls that made the difference.

Notable: Coach Joe Litterio continued to rotate in fresh players, giving Luke Bowerbank a day off in right field until he was forced to pinch hit. Kevin Blum shifted from center to right field as Jawuan Harris (2-4) returned to the lineup. Pinch hitter extraordinaire Milo Freeman got the start at DH and had a hit. The adjustments had minimal impact on a mostly dormant offense in the series. Walker added a single in the 9th inning to extend his hitting streak to 16 games. Tyler McNamara was also injured in the 9th inning and Rutgers third catcher AJ Gallagher was pressed into duty.

Opponent notables: Leadoff man and centerfielder Bowersox had two runs, an RBI, and a stolen base. Catcher Ryan Sloniger had four more hits, two RBI, and a run. Klemann went 3-4 including the homer and sac fly. Mason Nadeau had three stolen bases in the 8th spot of the order. Biasi allowed only one run in six innings despite allowing 8 hits, adding six strikeouts in the process. It was his first career win having missed last year due to injury.

Next up

Wednesday game with Princeton, 3 pm at Bainton Field.

Next weekend Big Ten play continues with a trip to Michigan State.