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Rutgers Baseball returns home as skid reaches four

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Knights drop final four games by a combined six runs to conclude Spring Break trip.

David Anderson

Rutgers Baseball was back in Fort Myers, FL for three games against Indiana State after a midweek date with Harvard at North Charlotte Regional Park.

Wednesday: Harvard 7, Rutgers 6

The Rutgers baseball team had a midweek seesaw battle with the Crimson. Both teams plated three runs in the third. RU regained the lead with one in the 4th. Harvard added two in the 5th and 6th to achieve a 7-4 lead which RU reduced to 7-6 with two of their own in the 7th. RU got men to second in the 8th and 9th but failed to score. Chris Brito doubled with one out in the final frame, but neither Peter Serruto or Carmen Sclafani could bring him in.

Decisive stat: Rutgers went 4-for-17 with runners in scoring position.

Notable: Harvard had three errors to RU’s two (Tim Dezzi and Chris Brito), but the Knights’ miscues cost them two runs. Mike Nysiztor had three hits. Dezzi and Kevin Welsh each had two hits. The Scarlet Knights stole three bases (Brito, Kevin Blum, and Tyler McNamara).

Friday: Indiana State 3, Rutgers 1

Rutgers starter Harry Rutkowski was his typical solid self, keeping the Sycamores off the board until the 6th inning. He was victimized by a Carmen Sclafani error at third base fielding a bunt to lead off the inning. The next batter also bunted and RU could not get the runner at first allowing the lead man to reach third. With runners at the corners and no outs, Harry got a big strikeout. The following hitter made enough contact for a sac fly to left bringing in the first run of the game. Harry got out of the inning with just the one run.

Rutgers finally tied the game in the 8th inning. Luke Bowerbank walked as a pinch hitter but was thrown out at second for the first out. A Mike Nyisztor single and Kevin Welsh walk allowed a Tim Dezzi single to bring in the tying run. After an intentional pass to Tyler McNamara, RU needed just a sac fly to take the lead. Instead freshman Chris Brito struck out looking and classmate Peter Serruto went down swinging to strand the bases loaded.

Indiana State got two runs in the 9th on back to back doubles to take a 3-1 advantage off normally reliable Serafino Brito. An Alex Russo double in the bottom half kept the Knights alive, but Nyisztor went down on strikes to end the game.

Decisive stat: The back to back bunts in the 6th that resulted in no outs. Had one or both of these plays been made, maybe Rutkowski goes eight or nine innings rather than seven. (104 pitches).

Notable: Rutkowski’s ERA dropped to 2.50 for the season. Tim Dezzi had two hits and a stolen base.

Saturday: Indiana State 7, Rutgers 5

Kyle Gerace got the start for RU but FGCU put up 6 runs in the 1st inning before he could get settled. The RU offense got one back in the bottom half courtesy of a Tyler McNamara RBI groundout. RU added two in the second and two more in the third on a Chris Brito home run to cut the deficit to 7-5.

Tevin Murray in relief held down the Sycamores for 4.2 innings of shutout ball to keep it close. Steven Acosta went the final four himself, surrendering just one run. The two relievers combined for a solid 10 strikeouts.

Rutgers only had two chances to tie the game. In the 6th, Victor Valderrama stole second with one out but was then doubled off second on a Peter Serruto pop out. Valderrama is fast, but his baserunning seems to be an adventure as he seems to reach by a variety of different means. The only other chance came in the 8th when Tim Dezzi walked and Chris Brito singled with two out. Had Tyler McNamara been able to make a productive out to move Dezzi up, Brito’s hit may have scored Dezzi.

Decisive stat: The six run first. other than that, RU completely dominated this one.

Notable: Chris Brito’s homer was his first college dinger. Both Kevins (Blum and Welsh) had two hits. Every starter had a hit or RBI for the Knights.

Sunday: Indiana State 4, Rutgers 3

Unlike the previous Sunday, the Scarlet Knights came out flat, allowing three runs in the top of the first off RU hurler Jack Parkinson. Tommy Genuario held Indiana State at bay for 5.2 innings of scoreless relief. A crucial insurance run in the 8th off Serafino Brito proved to be the dagger.

Just like Saturday’s contest, the Scarlet Knights fought valiantly and had the tying run on first with just one out in the bottom of the 9th after a Carmen Sclafani solo home run. Unfortunately pinch runner David Soto (in for Peter Serruto) was thrown out stealing with pinch hitter Luke Bowerbank at bat. Luke was retired and Indiana State moved to 19-2 on the season.

Decisive stat: Sycamore starter Tyler Whitbread went 6.1 innings (90 pitches) and only struck out three. His defense made the plays behind him, the only error coming from Whitbread himself. This efficiency is something Scarlet Knight pitchers have struggled to achieve.

Notable: Freshman designated hitter Peter Serruto was 2-4 with an RBI. Sclafani was 2-4 with the homer. Kevin Welsh stole a base. Mike Nyisztor had the team’s other RBI. Kevin Blum hit a double. Victor Valderrama scored two runs and continues to make things happen.

Series Takeaway(s): 1. Rutgers is now 5-15 on the season which is not going to get it done by any measure. Close losses are better than blowouts, but you need to get wins somehow, some way. It is painful to lose four games in a row by a combined six runs, though. Not being able to make productive outs is stranding too many runners. 2. The patchwork pitching staff is relying heavily on Rutkowski, Serafino Brito, and Tommy Genuario. If any of the three breaks down, the team’s chances of turning things around drop substantially. 3. The Scarlet Knights bats are waking up a bit, but a few crooked numbers on the scoreboard will give the embattled pitching staff some breathing room they simply haven’t had. The defense is now starting to clean up the errors, the offense needs to step up next.

B1G League Chew: Coach Gardner said it succinctly on his radio broadcast with Jimmy Gill after the finale.

“Yes Rutgers is playing better, but that doesn’t really matter as the won-loss record continues to look worse.”

The duo broadcast all away games on scarletknights.com.

Next up: Tuesday, 3:00 pm against Stony Brook at home. Then a three game weekend set to open Big Ten play at home against Ohio State, March 29-31. First pitch Friday is at 2 pm.

Former Scarlet Knight Max Herrmann made a solid appearance for the Angels in MLB Spring Training action.