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Rutgers Baseball splits with Penn State

Knights lose resumed game in extras, win second, third rained out.

Murray has just been on another level in Big Ten play.
Rutgers Athletics

Rutgers Baseball had a critical series to their Big Ten Tournament hopes at Penn State this past weekend. The Friday night opener was suspended after two innings of play and completed Saturday, making Saturday a doubleheader for all intensive purposes.

Friday (finished Saturday): Penn State 5, Rutgers 4

Rutgers starter Harry Rutkowski lasted just two innings because the game was halted with RU up 2-1. Harry allowed one unearned run after an error from Kevin Welsh in the first. The Knights answered back with a two run bomb from Carmen Sclafani, and then the rains came.

As a result, normal Saturday starter Tommy Genuario took the rubber in the third inning and tossed five innings, matching zeroes with Penn State’s Conor Larkin. Finally in the seventh, each team broke through for two more runs; RU on a throwing error by Larkin and PSU on three hits, a passed ball, and a sac fly.

With Rutgers again ahead by just one, Steven Acosta was called upon in the bottom of the 8th. He surrendered a leadoff double to a pinch hitter in the 9th spot, and may have kept Penn State off the scoreboard had it not been for a run scoring wild pitch. Instead the game was knotted 4-4.

Each team stranded a runner in the 9th, including Rutgers closer Serafino Brito recording two outs with the runner at third. Each team got a hit in the 10th as well but failed to score.

With the game still tied, neither ballclub could break through until the 11th inning. PSU had back to back one out singles, then a walk to load the bases as Brito was nearing 40 pitches. A walk off sac fly gave the Nittany Lions just their 3rd Big Ten win of the year.

Decisive Stat: 13-7. Penn State outhit Rutgers and eventually that bit the Scarlet Knights.

Notable: Welsh and Sclafani each had two hits.

Saturday Game 2: Rutgers 5, Penn State 1

Rutgers didn’t have much time to really wrestle with the disappointment of the series opening loss. Tevin Murray was thrust into the starting role for the second game, rather than the Sunday spot, but again pitched brilliantly. He went 8.0 IP without allowing an earned run, surrendering just two hits, walking three, and striking out nine. Murray had to be that good because the Knights’ offense didn’t wake up until the 7th inning.

Trailing 1-0, a clutch, two-out, two-RBI single to right from Kevin Welsh turned the one run deficit to a one run advantage. A key player earlier in the inning was Kevin Blum hustling for an infield single to keep the line moving. Unfortunately Tim Dezzi stranded two runners in scoring position after Welsh stole second.

After Murray stranded the tying run at 2nd in the bottom of the 7th, Rutgers rallied for two more in the 8th. A Luke Bowerbank walk and stolen base, Victor Valderrama single, Tyler McNamara single, and suicide squeeze from Blum did the damage. Rutgers again left two on, but Murray retired all three he faced in what was his final frame.

Rutgers manufactured a two-out insurance run in the 9th after Alex Russo as a pinch runner stole second and scored on a Luke Bowerbank single. Kyle Muller relieved Murray and walked the first batter he faced, but retired the next three for the much needed victory.

Decisive Stat: 7-3. Rutgers stole seven bases in the game to the Nittany Lions’ three. All that traffic and chaos eventually paid off in the late innings.

Notable: Two hits. David Soto who raised his batting average to .129 matched the total achieved by the Nittany Lions in the contest. One of those hits was a double for David, who has been much better at the plate lately, and he added a stolen base, also.

Sunday April 28: rained out.

On getaway day, the game was cancelled with no makeup date announced. This could become crucial with the crunch in the middle of the Big Ten Standings. Rutgers lost out on a golden opportunity to notch another W against last place Penn State.

Series Takeaway(s): 1. Rutgers is tied for 7th in the Big Ten standings at a record of 8-9 with Northwestern who has won four straight. The Scarlet Knights need to win the next series against the Wildcats to cement a spot in the eight team Big Ten tournament field because it will be a tough series in Bloomington to conclude the regular season against the 2nd place Hoosiers. 2. Rutgers pitching continues to get the job done despite a very short staff. Tevin Murray in particular flipped a switch and is exactly the kind of success story Pat Hobbs and Joe Litterio envisioned when they brought in Phil Cundari. 3. Currently at 19-25 for the year, the Scarlet Knights salvaged what could have been a lost season. At one point they were just 6-17 before the dramatic 15 inning win over Ohio State. A Big Ten top-8 finish would be huge, especially for the development of the massive freshman class.

B1G League Chew: In his last 11 appearances, Murray has thrown 47 innings, allowing just three earned runs.

Next up: Tuesday at home against Villanova, see you at 1pm! Then a weekend series against Northwestern May 10-12, first pitch Friday is at 2:00 pm.