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Rutgers Baseball sweeps Michigan State

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Extend win streak to five, longest B1G streak since joining the conference.

Rutkowski finally got some help from his teammates for a win.
Rutgers Athletics

After winning back to back games, Rutgers Baseball took the brooms to Michigan State to extend the win streak out to five. Here’s how it went down.

Friday: Rutgers 4, Michigan State 2

Rutgers starter Harry Rutkowski was given a run to work with in the bottom in the first when Tyler McNamara singled in Mike Nyisztor. Then the bottom of the Scarlet Knight order provided two more runs courtesy of singles from David Soto and Kevin Blum in the 4th.

Rutkowski allowed a run in the 6th and then was charged with one in the 7th before being lifted. It wasn’t his best game of the year, but Harry got the job done and a long overdue first victory of the year. His final line 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 SO, 85 pitches. Steven Acosta avoided further damage.

After a scoreless top of the 8th from Garrett French, Rutgers added an insurance run off Peter Serruto’s bat that scored Victor Valderrama to make it 4-2. Serafino Brito retired the side in order including two strikeouts to nail down his 5th save of the year.

Decisive stat: 0 errors. Kevin Welsh at short with David Soto at second base has been more reliable than any other middle infield duo this year. The recent change is moving freshman Chris Brito from first over to third base, then bringing Mike Nyisztor to first from center field. Chris made the game ending play in the tweet above. Of course Rutkowski himself has also improved his fielding, too.

Notable: Soto and Blum each added a stolen base. Blum and Nyisztor each had two hits. Neither reigning Big Ten Player of the Week Carmen Sclafani nor Tim Dezzi was in the lineup.

Saturday: Rutgers 6, Michigan State 3

Rutgers sent Tommy Genuario out and he managed to keep the Spartans off the scoreboard despite allowing three singles in the top of the first inning. A key play came when the Spartans tested freshman catcher Peter Serruto, but Peter was able to throw out the runner attempting to steal second base. It wasn’t just any runner either, but Big Ten stolen base leader Bryce Kelley who had four hits in the game.

Like Rutkowski a day earlier, Genuario also got support in the bottom of the first. Lucky for him, it was a very crooked five spot. Mike Nyisztor and Tim Dezzi singled to begin the game and Chris Brito made a productive groundout to score Mike. Tyler McNamara flied out, but then the Knights mustered a monster two-out rally. Kevin Welsh walked, then Victor Valderrama reached on an error bringing in Dezzi. Serruto singled, David Soto singled, then Kevin Blum singled to make it 5-0 RU after just their first turn at bat.

The Spartans finally got to Genuario with a run in the sixth, but RU got it right back courtesy of a wild pitch that brought home Valderrama. Steven Acosta gave up a run in the 7th and Serafino Brito also surrendered one which wasn’t enough to prevent the Scarlet Knights from clinching the series in the second game.

Decisive stat: 2-13 w/RISP. Michigan State outhit RU 12-10, but could advance runners. Scarlet Knight hurlers held the Spartans to just two hits in 13 tries with runners in scoring position. That’s some clutch pitching.

Notable: Welsh had both RU miscues. Since runners were on when he entered in the 8th, Serafino Brito was credited with his 6th save of 2019, 11th career (7th all-time at RU). Dezzi, Valderrama (two doubles), Serruto, and Blum each had two hits. Genuario’s final line, 6 IP, 7 hits, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO.

Sunday: Rutgers 8, Michigan State 0

Rutgers didn’t let down on Sunday. Starter Tevin Murray pitched the best game of his career, going six innings with nine strikeouts to just two walks, one base hit, and one hit batsman. Everyone knows the tall lefty has really good stuff and we had been waiting to see command like this (just 97 pitches).

The Knight bats were alive and well again, posting three in the second and four more in the fourth inning. The big blow in the second was a Kevin Blum double. The hit that keyed the fourth inning rally was a two RBI single from Tyler McNamara. Anthony Greco scored on a wild pitch for a late insurance run.

Decisive stat: One hit. Murray allowed it, while Garrett French, Steven Acosta, and Serafino Brito all threw perfect innings out of the bullpen. RU hadn’t thrown a one-hitter since 2004. For all the trouble the Spartans had with runners in scoring position Saturday, they only had two plate appearances of the sort Sunday.

Notable: Carmen Sclafani registered a pinch hit double. McNamara had two hits in addition to the two RBI. Mike Nyisztor, who played left field, had three hits and two stolen bases. Dezzi made an error at third base, the team’s only miscue.

Series Takeaway(s): 1. Michigan State is winless in the Big Ten, but sweeping any conference opponent is always difficult. It was great to see the Knights go for the kill in the finale. 2. The top three starters are solid (Rutkowski, Genuario, and Murray) as are the top three relievers (Brito, Acosta, and French). Pitching Coach Phil Cundari definitely figured it out for now. Big Ten play will get a lot tougher though, so buckle your seat belt. 3. With the Scarlet Knights offense hitting its stride, the team has been able to start games with a more defensive minded squad, then use experienced hitters like Sclafani and Bowerbank in key situations. With so few power threats outside of Sclafani, he could provide a huge boost in the role of late inning pinch hitter.

B1G League Chew: Rutgers achieved their first Big Ten sweep since ... ever. It was the first conference sweep by the Scarlet Knights since 2014, the one season in the AAC. It is the first four game Big Ten winning streak for the Knights since joining the conference.

Next up: Wednesday versus Hofstra at 3 pm. Then a three game weekend series at home against Purdue to complete the home stand. First pitch Friday is at 2 pm.