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Rutgers Baseball looks to rebound in Jacksonville this weekend

Knights swept by #3 Miami in Coral Gables, head upstate looking for first win of the season.

Rutkowski pitched well in the opener, but Rutgers just could never break through on offense.
Rutgers Athletics

Rutgers Baseball opened the season at #3 Miami (FL). The weather was still paradise compared to northeast winter conditions, but both teams fought through a little moisture Friday, heavy rain Saturday evening, and then some heavy humidity on a sunny Sunday. At the end of the series though, Rutgers is still looking for their first win of the Steve Owens era after being swept by the Hurricanes.

Friday: #3 Miami (FL) 2, Rutgers 1

The Rutgers baseball team started the season the same way most Friday night games in 2019 did; starter Harry Rutkowski pitched valiantly for nearly 100 pitches, but gave up two runs in one inning and his bats could not score enough. Rutgers trailed 2-0 from the 3rd until finally plating their first run of the season in the 8th inning to cut the deficit in half. Chris Brito’s solo homer would prove to be the final run of the game and the home team escaped with a 2-1 to open the 2020 campaign.

Decisive stat: Rutgers batters whiffed 14 times, which will not get it done if you are a team relying on contact.

Notable: Brito had two of RU’s five hits. Kyle Muller (2.1 IP) and Eric Reardon (0.2 IP) combined for three scoreless innings of relief. Tim Dezzi got the start at third base and made one error. Peter Serruto got the start at catcher. Sam Owens DH’d and recorded his first hit as a Scarlet Knight as did rightfielder Richie Schiekofer.

Saturday (completed Sunday): #3 Miami (FL) 8, Rutgers 2

After rain dumped on Miami in the afternoon, the Hurricanes struck first on a solo homer by catcher Adrian Del Castillo in the bottom of the first off Tommy Genuario. Rutgers made plenty of noise in the third inning. With one out, the Knights recorded four straight hits resulting in two runs. Unfortunately Del Castillo hit a two-run bomb in the bottom half and Miami never looked back. The game was suspended in the 7th with Miami in the midst (see what I did there) of a five run inning and completed Sunday. RU could not plate another themselves.

Decisive stat: Del Castillo went 3-4, 3 runs, 3 RBI, 2 HR, and a 2B. Rutgers had only two hits other than the four in a row for a total of six.

Notable: Mike Nyisztor doubled, stole a base, and scored a run that was upheld after video review. Jordan Sweeney made his college debut as a pinch hitter. Andy Axelson started at catcher, but went hitless. Jared Bellissimo tossed two innings of scoreless relief. Matt Ciccone made his collegiate debut out of the bullpen.

Sunday: #3 Miami (FL) 13, Rutgers 6

Rutgers was ambushed in the series finale, trailing 7-0 after three innings as starter Tevin Murray simply didn’t have it. Rutgers finally got their first base hit with one out in the 6th inning. The Knights trailed 12-1 before a five run rally in the 8th to make the game appear closer than it actually was. It included homers by sophomores Peter Serruto and Chris Brito.

Decisive stat: Miami outhit Rutgers 12-6 which was pretty much on par with the rest of the series.

Notable: Peter Serruto was the lone bright spot for Rutgers, going 3-4 with two runs, two RBI, and a home run. Grant Shulman made his debut at 3rd base and committed an error. Josh Rodriguez made his college debut, leading off and playing right field, tallying a hit and run in the process. Redshirt freshman Jacob Newman made his debut out of the bullpen. Parker Scott logged a career high 3.2 innings out of the pen.

Series Takeaway(s): 1. Rutgers defense was good in the rain and then not so good on Sunday in the sun, committing three errors. 2. The coaches did their best to spread the pitching load, but it’s going to take some magic juggling if RU plays a few consecutive close games with a plethora of high leverage situations. 3. Hopefully the bats finally woke up with the late rally Sunday. Sophomores Valderrama, Brito, and Serruto will be heavily counted on to make things happen with the stick because the majority of the lineup is more station to station, keep the line moving type players at this point.

B1G League Chew: Miami (FL) is a good baseball team, that’s all I have to say ... about that. Basically, it wasn't a realistic test for this group of Rutgers players trying to achieve middle of the pack Big Ten status in Owens’s first season.

For those who were in town, I tried to give a few shoutouts while inline skating through Coral Gables Saturday before the rain hit. Keep the support coming for this club!

Next up: A three game weekend set in Jacksonville against North Florida, Feb 21-23. First pitch Friday is at 6 pm, Saturday at 2 pm, and Sunday at 1 pm.