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Rutgers Baseball heads to Indiana with season on the brink

Knights salvage finale at Northwestern to cling to 8th place.

McNamara’s homered on Senior Day and leads the team into battle this weekend.
Rutgers Athletics

Rutgers Baseball completes their Big Ten schedule at 2nd place Indiana this weekend. The Scarlet Knights control their own destiny, sitting in the final qualifying spot for a Big Ten tournament berth. It will be a tough task against the Hoosiers starting tonight at 6pm EDT, though.

RU had a critical series to their Big Ten Tournament hopes at home against Northwestern this past weekend after dropping a midweek game to Villanova. The two Big Ten ballclubs came into the series in the 7th and 8th spots in the conference standings, the final two places that qualify for the eight team Big Ten postseason tournament. Northwestern earned the crucial, highly contested series victory.

Friday: Northwestern 5, Rutgers 3

Rutgers starter Harry Rutkowski put the team on his back for the first six innings allowing the Scarlet Knights to jump out to a 3-0 lead on the strength of RBI hits from Mike Nyisztor and David Soto. Unfortunately as has been the case seemingly all year, one crooked number from the other side was the difference in the game as the Wildcats put up five runs in the 7th, all with two outs. Rutgers failed to answer and was on the wrong end of the first game.

Saturday Game 1: Northwestern 4, Rutgers 0

Tevin Murray got the call in the second game of the set, first of the day and was once again brilliant. The southpaw did not allow an earned run in seven innings, but an RU error proved the difference, allowing two runs to score in the 4th. Rutgers could not get the bats going either, each team collected only four hits. The Wildcats tacked on two insurance runs in the 9th.

Saturday Game 2: Rutgers 5, Northwestern 4

With inclement weather expected Sunday (which turned out to be true), the series finale was pulled back to Saturday afternoon. As Rutgers has done almost every time this year, they came through in the second game of a doubleheader. Tyler McNamara and Carmen Sclafani both hit Home Runs to power the offense on Senior Day. Tommy Genuario went seven innings, allowing just one earned run. Eric Reardon escaped a critical bases loaded jam and Steven Acosta recorded his first career save to close it out.

Series Takeaway(s): 1. Rutgers sits in 8th in the Big Ten standings at a record of 9-11, falling behind the Wildcats. The Scarlet Knights have their backs against the wall and probably need to win at least two of the games, possibly all three. Maryland (hosting Iowa) and Ohio State (at Purdue) are just half a game back. 2. Rutgers does have the starting pitching depth to not only upset Indiana, but also actually win any given game in the Big Ten Tournament. A few clutch hits from McNamara or Sclafani and who knows what could happen. 3. Rarely should a single series define the season, but a lot is riding on this one with Indiana. If Rutgers plays well and takes at least one game, fans can probably live with the ups and downs of this roller coaster season. If RU is swept in embarrassing fashion, the negatives will be viewed more than the positives as the team will have finished outside the top 8 every season since they joined the conference. They missed opportunities to take care of business the last two weeks, but can rectify this weekend.

B1G League Chew: To illustrate how dominant the starting pitching has been at times, both Murray and Rutkowski could end up in the top five for single season strikeouts in Rutgers history.

Hopefully not last up: This weekend series at Indiana May 16-18 to conclude the Big Ten regular season schedule, first pitch Thursday is at 6:00 pm.

It does not seem the Penn State rainout will be made up.