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Rutgers Baseball salvages finale at FGCU

Knights drop series to begin Spring Break trip.

David Anderson

Rutgers Baseball was back in Fort Myers, FL for another year to kick off the annual spring break trip. The Scarlet Knights had some momentum after a midweek extra inning walk-off win over Monmouth in the home opener.

Friday: FGCU 4, Rutgers 1 (11 innings)

Rutgers baseball team stranded runners constantly through most of the game, but FGCU was not much better. Both teams mustered just eight hits, a few of which could have been ruled errors or simply luck. RU stranded two men in the 3rd, 5th (bases loaded), 8th, and 9th. It felt like a carbon copy of the series opener at USC Upstate.

After allowing a run in the 1st, Rutgers starter Harry Rutkowski posted a solid line: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 6 SO, 2 BB. Tommy Genuario, Steven Acosta, and Serafino Brito kept the Eagles off the board through nine. Kyle Muller tossed a scoreless 10th.

Rutgers almost turned two to get out of the bottom of the 11th after Soto deep in the hole fired to Welsh for one and over to first. Instead it was runners at the corners, two outs. The next batter hit a three-run homer off Muller who was in his second inning of work.

Decisive stat: 14 men on base, just one more hit or run by any means in the first ten innings would have resulted in victory.

Notable: Kevin Welsh and Tim Dezzi each had two hits. Victor Valderrama was 0-3, but added two walks and the only RU run.

Saturday: FGCU 11, Rutgers 3

Kyle Gerace got the start for RU but FGCU put up 5 runs in the 1st inning before he could get settled. In the third, a wild pitch on a third strike was followed by a bunt that Gerace could not turn into an out, and then an error by shortstop David Soto. A sacrifice fly and single made it 8-0. FGCU added two more in the 5th to make it 10-0 and the game was effectively over.

The RU offense had managed just two hits when they trailed 10-0. Rutgers would score single runs in the 6th, 8th, and 9th, but that still only got the Knights to six hits for the entire game. Peter Serruto had two of the hits and 2 RBI.

Decisive stat: Two for twelve with runners in scoring position. At one point when the game was still close, RU was 0-4 w/RISP while FGCU was 3-4 and therefore held a 5-0 lead.

Notable: Kevin Blum had a pinch hit RBI single. David Soto had another hit, but made two of the team’s four errors. As a result, only six of FGCU’s 11 runs were earned.

Sunday: Rutgers 4, FGCU 1

The Scarlet Knights came out focused with a run in the top of the first courtesy of a Tyler McNamara RBI groundout to plate Mike Nyisztor. In the second, Carmen Sclafani knocked in Peter Serruto with a home run, RU’s first of the season. Victor Valderrama followed with a bomb of his own to put the Knights up 4-0.

Despite RU starting Jack Parkinson (normally a reliever) who threw just 1.1 innings, Scarlet Knight pitchers held the Eagles to just one run all game, scattering 10 hits. RU did not get the benefit of many double plays and Kevin Welsh playing shortstop committed two errors, but the defense made critical plays, particularly in aid of Steven Acosta’s 2.1 innings of shutout ball. Then opening series starters Tevin Murray (4 K in 1.2 IP) and Serafino Brito (2K in 1 IP) came in from the bullpen themselves to nail down the win. It was Brito’s (and the team’s) first save of the season.

Decisive stat: FGCU was just 1-16 with runners in scoring position. They were 0-7 with the bases loaded.

Notable: Nyisztor had three hits and stolen base. Sclafani and Valderrama added two hits each. Tommy Genuario got the win with 2.2 IP in relief of Parkinson.

Series Takeaway(s): 1. Rutgers is starting to get base hits and traffic on the basepaths, will big hits follow to knock them in? Sclafani and Valderrama finally added RU’s first (and immediately second) home runs of the season in the 16th game, so maybe that takes pressure off the offense. 2. The pitching staff did a great job in two and a half of the three games. The only blemish was a big first inning Saturday followed by an inability to pick up the defense. 3. The Scarlet Knights need to figure out a way to get Tim Dezzi, Peter Serruto, and Tyler McNamara all in the lineup at the same time, the top three guys in OPS by a large margin. The easiest way to do that is to alternate McNamara and Serruto as DH since both are above average defensively at catcher, and play Dezzi at second or third base. Dezzi played second Sunday without committing an error and needs to keep it up. Perhaps the added pressure locked in Sclafani at the plate Sunday.

B1G League Chew: The first game despite being 1-1 heading to the 11th took four hours and 41 minutes to play with all the traffic on the bases.

Next up: Wednesday, 2:00 pm against Harvard in North Charlotte Regional Park (Field 10). Then a three game weekend set to close the trip, against Indiana State at City of Palms Park in Ft. Myers, March 22-24.