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Rutgers baseball escapes Monmouth to snap skid

Knights rebound after being swept at Illinois.

Folinusz contributed with the glove and the winning hit.
Bob Cancro

Happy Tax Day! After being swept by 18th ranked, Big Ten foe Illinois last weekend, Rutgers returned to the Garden State for a quick turnaround at Monmouth Tuesday afternoon. The Scarlet Knights’ longest skid of the season (three games) had the team still one win away from matching last season’s total. Monmouth entered the contest 12-19 but had been hot of late, winning four of their last five.

On a cold day that turned wet for the tri-state area, it affected the pitchers early on in the game that the forecast predicted may not go nine innings. Each team plated a run in the first, then Rutgers unloaded a five spot in the second. Kevin Welsh and Luke Bowerbank singled to bring up Mike Nyisztor who doubled in two men. Later in the frame Nick Matera doubled in three more to make it 6-1 in favor of the Scarlet Knights.

Not to be outdone, Monmouth immediately responded with three of their own to cut their deficit to 6-4. For the second consecutive inning, Rutgers starting pitcher Karl Blum made an error resulting in two on, no out. Later in the inning, an RBI groundout was followed by a two RBI single from John LaRocca.

After that the pitchers settled in a bit, though there seemed to be runners on base for both clubs regularly. In the bottom of the 5th, Rutgers skipper Joe Litterio elected to go to his closer Serafino Brito. Brito put up a zero in the frame, but was victimized for a quick run in the bottom of the 6th to make it 6-5. After a double play left nobody on and two outs, an error by Dan DiGeorgio followed by a walk then a single tied the score at 6.

Rutgers broke through in the 8th on a Chris Folinusz RBI single after a huge walk worked by Tyler McNamara who had replaced Matera. Tommy Genuario relieved Ryan Wares for the bottom of the 9th after Wares put up two zeroes. A leadoff single was followed by a sac bunt which Genuario handled cleanly to get his first out. Back to back strikeouts and Rutgers escaped with a 7-6 victory to tie last season’s win total of 19. It was Genuario’s first career save.

Decisive stat: Rutgers outhit Monmouth 10-7. RU actually left 10 men on base to the Hawks’ 5. The sheer volume of runners and the stolen base (Rutgers had five to Monmouth’s one) were just enough to secure a victory for RU.

Notable: Dan DiGeorgio, Folinusz, Welsh, and Bowerbank each had two hits apiece. Harris stole two more bases.

Opponent notables: Nick Campana had two hits. Danny Long scored twice. Kyle Ajjan pitched two scoreless innings out of the bullpen.

For those of you who were busy this weekend with the Rutgers Football spring game, your taxes, spring cleaning, etc, here’s a recap of what went down in Illinois.

Friday: Illinois 13, Rutgers 12

The weirdest game of the season saw the Fighting Illini torch Rutgers starter John O’Reilly for nine runs in the bottom of the first inning. O’Reilly had been awesome lately and Litterio stuck with him as John ended up gutting out three innings.

Then somehow miraculously, Rutgers responded with ten runs of their own in the top half of the 4th inning. The barrage featured eight hits from the Scarlet Knights, the last of which was a bases clearing double from Jawuan Harris to turn a 9-7 Illini advantage to a 10-9 deficit for the home team.

Milo Freeman’s homer leading off the 5th made it 11-9 and a stunned Illini contingent nervously waited for their team to replicate their first inning success. They did in the 6th against Tommy Genuario with a three spot aided by back to back batted balls to shortstop with the bases loaded that only resulted in one out rather than possibly ending the inning altogether. Rutgers was able to immediately respond as a suddenly scorching Jawuan Harris led off the inning with a single, stole second, stole third, and came in to tie the game on a fielders choice from Luke Bowerbank. Unfortunately for Rutgers, Illinois scratched out a run in the 8th and hold on for a 13-12 victory.

Decisive stat: Illinois outhit Rutgers 16-13. Hits don’t always tell the story, but it was the biggest factor in this slugfest.

Notable: Every Knights starter recorded a base hit. Harris led the way with three hits, four RBI, a run scored and two stolen bases.

Opponent notables: Four players had three hit games, one of which had 4 RBI (catcher Jeff Korte who batted 8th in the line up).

Saturday: Illinois 2, Rutgers 1

Totally the opposite of Friday’s contest had Illinois score one in the first followed by one in the third, but that was all Harry Rutkowski would allow. Unfortunately Rutgers could not get on the board until they tallied one in the 7th on a Kevin Welsh single. Two runners were stranded in scoring position and Rutgers wouldn’t get another baserunner in the 2-1 defeat.

Decisive stat: Illinois outhit RU 10-4. Once again Rutgers at times powerful offense was not as good as Illinois. Rutkowski went six innings and was able to get strikeouts (six total) when he needed them to keep RU in the game.

Notable: Serafino Brito continued to pitch well with two scoreless innings. Welsh had two of the team’s four hits. Harris stole another base.

Opponent notables: starting pitcher Quinn Snarskis (4-1) mowed down RU in 6.2 innings of work. Closer Joey Gerber recorded his 11th save with a clean 9th featuring two strikeouts. Korte went 0 for 3. First baseman Michael Michalak had three hits but did not factor into the scoring. Cleanup batting leftfielder Doran Turchin had two hits, a run, and an RBI.

Sunday: Illinois 10, Rutgers 4

Eric Reardon got the start and had a run to work with on Nick Matera’s first inning double that plated Mike Nyisztor. Rutgers came into the game with a pretty well-rested bullpen after only using two pitchers Saturday. They needed it as Illinois broke through with yet another crooked number, tallying seven in the third inning to chase Reardon.

Rutgers immediately responded with a mini-rally in the 4th to cut the deficit to 7-4 powered by a three run bomb from Kyle Walker. Illinois got one back in the bottom half and two in the 5th. After that neither team scored again in the contest.

Decisive stat: Illinois outhit Rutgers 11-4. Pick your poison between that and the seven run inning. Rutgers pitchers have cut down on their walks but gave up a ton of hits to Illinois in the three game set. That said, had more free passes been issued it could have been worse.

Notable: Harris stole another base. That was the only story outside the two extra base hits from Walker and Matera offensively.

Opponent notables: Illinois starter Ty Weber went the distance and is now 4-1 on the season. Four players had two hits including Korte. Turchin scored two more runs and had a stolen base. 2nd baseman Michael Massey batted 3rd and had 4 RBI including a homer.

Next up

Rutgers continues their Big Ten schedule 3 pm Friday against Nebraska at Bainton Field. Saturday’s game is at 1 pm while the series finale Sunday will be at noon.

After that, RU is in-state again at Rider next Tuesday April 24.