Rutgers returned to the field Friday at Old Dominion after Tuesday’s home opener was postponed due to inclement weather. The ballclub looked to build on their successful weekend in New Orleans last week. Head Coach Joe Litterio had a heavy heart with the passing of his former coach and Rutgers legend Fred Hill Sr. Saturday morning and the current squad could not pick up their manager.
Game 7: Rutgers (2-4) at Old Dominion (5-2) | 2 p.m. | Norfolk, Va.— Rutgers Baseball (@RutgersBaseball) March 1, 2019
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Friday: Old Dominion 3, Rutgers 2
Starter Harry Rutkowski was a workhorse once again. He allowed two runs in the bottom of the second, but was clean in the remainder of his six innings of work. Harry’s only blemish came during a rally that began with two outs. The final line for Rutkowski: 6.0 IP, 9 H, 2 ER, 7 SO, 1 BB, 99 pitches (70 for strikes).
Rutgers pushed a run across in the 4th, but was otherwise quiet at the dish. Kevin Welsh reached on an error, then came around to score on a Tyler McNamara single to trim the deficit in half. Kyle Gerace relieved Rutkowski and kept it a 2-1 game heading to the 9th inning.
Ninth-place hitter Kevin Blum was the hero for about 20 minutes. With RU down to their last out, Blum singled, stole second, got to third on a wild pitch, then scored on an error. Talk about manufacturing a run to tie the game, 2-2.
Old Dominion capitalized themselves on sloppy play by RU to win the game in the bottom half. With two outs and nobody on, Kyle Gerace finally ran out of gas allowing a single to the three and four hitters in the Monarchs batting order. With runners at the corners and two away, Tommy Genuario came in from the bullpen. An attempted pick off attempt went awry, and the winning run came home for the Old Dominion walk-off win without Genuario even recording a pitch thrown.
Decisive stat: Five hits, Four Errors. With the lack of hitting and poor defense, Rutgers was lucky to even be in this game. Welsh had recently moved back to shortstop this week after freshman David Soto struggled to begin his Rutgers career. Unfortunately, Welsh committed three miscues and moved back over to second base after Soto entered the game as a pinch runner. Those three errors were not as costly as the game ender.
Notable: Gerace had thrown two and a two-thirds innings allowing just one baserunner before he allowed his first hit. McNamara had two of RU’s five hits. Blum had two of RU’s four stolen bases.
Saturday: Old Dominion 12, Rutgers 5
After hearing the news about Coach Hill, Rutgers took the field at 2pm Saturday. Old Dominion held a moment of silence to honor his memory before the game.
In the top of the second, Tyler McNamara got the Knights on the board with a double that scored Kevin Welsh and Luke Bowerbank. Kevin Blum followed with a single to knock in McNamara for a 3-0 lead. Rutgers got more in the 3rd, plating two more runs on RBI knocks by Mike Nyisztor and Kevin Welsh, for a 5-0 lead.
Tevin Murray got the start for RU, needing to right the ship after Friday’s drama. Murray kept the Monarchs off the scoreboard until the bottom of the 3rd when they responded with five runs. The inning began with a hit batsmen and two singles. With the bases jammed, Murray walked in a run on four pitches. Tevin regained his composure with back to back strikeouts. Unfortunately the Monarchs would not be denied with two away as their clean up hitter, the imposing Vinnie Pasquantino hit a double down the right field line, clearing the bases. Another double scored Pasquantino and the game was tied 5-5. Kyle Muller relieved Murray and ended the inning.
After that the Rutgers bats went ice cold while the Monarchs tacked on two in the 5th, one in the 6th, and put the game away with four in the 7th.
Decisive stat: Four earned runs in two-thirds of an inning. Rutgers was within striking distance at 8-5 in the 7th and Jack Parkinson got an opportunity to keep it that way. Unfortunately he struggled, walking three and allowing two hits to the seven batters he faced.
Notable: Blum and McNamara each had two of RU’s nine hits. Rutgers only made one error and it was by Nyistor who had shifted from center field to first base earlier in the game.
Sunday: Old Dominion 12, Rutgers 2
The series finale was moved up to an 11 am start time. It was disaster for Rutgers. Freshman Brian Fitzpatrick was brilliant last week out of the bullpen and got his first career start. Fitzpatrick didn’t even make it through the first batter as he had to come out of the game due to an injury. Garrett French came out of the bullpen and clearly was not loose, hitting the first batter with a pitch and walking the second. Several hits, a Rutgers error, and when the dust settled, RU was down 7-0 heading to the second inning.
French tired in the 3rd and Old Dominion put up a five spot to make in 12-0 despite Serafino Brito coming in to try and halt the threat. Rutgers added single runs in the 5th and 7th, never getting anything going on getaway day.
Decisive stat: Six hits. Rutgers mustered less hits for the entire game than the Monarchs managed runs in the first inning.
Notable: Victor Valderrama had his first career hit. Brett Sternberg went three for four with a run scored in his first Rutgers start. Freshman catcher Andy Axelson got his first college playing time. Peter Serruto started at DH, going 0-4. Rutgers infielders committed three more errors.
Series Takeaway(s): 1. Can this team find a shortstop who can field reliably? Even when Dan DiGeorgio returns from injury, he is not a pure fielder at the position. Litterio, a former infielder has gotten gray hair over the past few seasons trying to find even a short term solution at short. 2. Even after sorting out #1, does Dezzi stay at DH or become the regular 2nd baseman? 3. Like the Miami series, this three game set was lost due to big innings from the opposition. Rutgers’s young hurlers need to improve their control, not throwing balls with too much plate when runners are on base.
B1G League Chew: Rutgers took the first two at Old Dominion last year and led 3-0 heading to the bottom of the 9th in the 2018 finale. A four run rally from the Monarchs prevented the sweep, perhaps a precursor to this weekend’s result.
RU has their second chance at a home opener against Iona Tuesday, 2pm at Bainton Field. Bundle up as the high will be 32 degrees.
The Scarlet Knights travel to Spartanburg, SC for a three game set with USC Upstate March 8-10.