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Rutgers Baseball’s two wins place 2nd in Sugar Bowl Classic

Knights defeeat Butler and Chicago State, fall to UNO.

Rutgers Baseball

Rutgers began the season with losses at the hands former Big East foe Miami a week ago and returned to action in the All State Sugar Bowl Baseball Classic in New Orleans this past Friday. The round robin format featured RU, the University of New Orleans, Butler, and Chicago State. Mardi Gras may not officially begin until March 5, but RU had some excitement from the start.

Friday: Rutgers 3, Butler 2

Starter Harry Rutkowski delivered seven and a third innings of quality pitching, allowing just one earned run. Tim Dezzi’s third hit of the game was a walk-off single to produce the Knights’ first victory of the 2019 season.

Saturday: New Orleans 7, Rutgers 2

Rutgers trotted Tevin Murray out for his second career start after flashes of brilliance in his first last weekend at Miami. Murray gave up a run in the bottom of the first, then matched zeroes with the Privateers’ starter Chris Turpin until the 5th.

In the top of the 5th, Rutgers took a brief 2-1 lead. Tim Dezzi doubled to lead off the inning followed by a Carmen Sclafani walk. Luke Bowerbank bunted to try and move the runners up which he did, and also managed to reach safety on a throwing error by Turpin. Peter Serruto was hit by a pitch to force in the tying run, still with nobody out. David Soto grounded into a double play up the middle, but the contact alone allowed Sclafani to scamper home for the lead run. Kevin Blum’s slump continued as he lined out to strand Bowerbank at 3rd and end the inning.

Normally effective long man Kyle Gerace could not get out of Murray’s jam in the 5th and New Orleans regained the lead with a 4-2 advantage. Tevin would finish with a line of 4 IP, 8 hits, 4 ER, and 7 SO on 87 pitches. Rutgers failed to score the rest of the way and UNO tacked on two more in the 7th for the victory.

Decisive stat: Four hits. Rutgers simply could not get base knocks in this one and without that not much was brewing. Only two walks and the aforementioned hit by pitch meant not much traffic at all on the basepaths other than the rally in the 5th.

Notable: In the middle of the game, Dezzi moved from DH to second base, shifting Kevin Welsh over to shortstop. Freshman Brett Sternberg singled in his first career at-bat. Jack Parkinson, a transfer from Rowan recorded his first out as a Scarlet Knight. Kyle Muller pitched an inning and two-thirds of relief without allowing an earned run.

Sunday: Rutgers 6, Chicago State 2

Coach Joe Litterio gave freshman Garrett French his first career start. French battled through two and a third innings, surrendering a run in the 2nd and 3rd. Fortunately for the Scarlet Knights, the offense responded each time with runs of their own to take a 3-2 midway through the 4th. From there the Rutgers bullpen spun six more innings of shutout ball aided by an insurance run from the Scarlet offense in the seventh and two more in the eighth.

Decisive stat: Six and two-thirds innings of shutout relief. Freshman Brian Fitzpatrick threw four and a third himself allowing just two hits and striking out seven to earn the win. Eric Reardon, Tommy Genuario, and Serafino Brito came on after that to close out the 6-2 victory.

Notable: Rutgers pounded out 13 hits. Mike Nyisztor, Carmen Sclafani, Alex Russo, and Kevin Blum all had two of those hits including one each for extra bases. The other five starting batsmen all had a base hit as well. Blum rebounded from his mini-slump with a double, run, RBI, and stolen base for good measure Sunday. The Rutgers defense did not commit an error.

Series Takeaway(s): 1. How many tall lefties does this team have? Many of these guys have a lot of upside, so if Pitching Coach Phil Cundari can get just a few of them to put it all together this season, there is hope. 2. The balanced attack Sunday is the blueprint for the 2019 Scarlet Knights’ offensive gameplan. Keep the line moving with singles plus occasional extra base hits by not trying to do too much, get contributions from all nine in the lineup, and put pressure with aggressive baserunning. 3. Serafino Brito is better as a reliever than starter. It was worth a shot to see if the staff could get more innings out of the senior by starting him, but he showed this weekend his “stuff” in high leverage situations is more effective. There is also something about hitters seeing him the second time through the order being way more effective than their first at-bats. Batters probably struggle to pick up the ball the first time seeing Serafino, thus making him more successful in shorter bursts.

B1G League Chew: Fitzpatrick mentioned in his interview (below) how effective he was running his fastball inside as they biggest key to his success. Coach Litterio mentioned how critical Cundari teaching the fine points of pitching inside to batters in our interview prior to the season. Pitching inside is important, but so far Rutgers has hit eight batters. Scarlet hurlers need to command the zone better and if they do, some of these guys may have a chance to get drafted.

Next up:

RU has their home opener against Wagner Tuesday, 3pm at Bainton Field. Bundle up as the high will be 38 degrees.

The Scarlet Knights travel to Norfolk, VA for a three game set with Old Dominion March 1-3.