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Rutgers Baseball sweeps North Florida

Coach Owens gets his first three RU wins in Jacksonville, achievement also evens the team’s record.

Serruto was hot with the bat and leads the team in hitting.
Rutgers Athletics

The Rutgers Baseball team bounced back after a sweep at the hands of #3 Miami by taking their own brooms further upstate to Jacksonville this weekend.

Friday: Rutgers 14, North Florida 3

The Rutgers bats must have gotten the message during the week as they exploded for four runs in the top of the first and another five in the second. The first inning damage was done by four straight hits (Dan DiGeorgio, Sam Owens, Mike Nyisztor, and Richie Schiekofer) followed by a productive out by Chris Brito. Then after a 1-2-3 inning in the field, five straight players reached base including a two RBI double by Sam Owens. The team batted around with the final run coming off the bat of Peter Serruto.

Rutgers tacked on one in the 4th and two more in the 5th, keyed by a Schiekofer double. Schiekofer then tripled to instigate a two run 7th and cement the first career win for Head Coach Steve Owens on the banks.

Decisive stat(s): Starter Harry Rutkowski (1-1) finally got the run support he has failed to receive so many times before and cruised through seven innings. He finished by allowing six hits, two runs, two strikeouts, no walks (though two hits batsmen), keeping things democratic with 12 ground ball outs. Despite all the chances, Rutgers defense did not commit an error despite cold temperatures and heavy wind.

Notable: Matt Ciccone pitched the final two innings. DiGeorgio had four hits, two runs, and an RBI out of the leadoff spot. Nyisztor scored three times. Schiekofer went 3-4 with three runs and two RBI. Chris Brito also went 3-4 with two RBI. Serruto went 2-4 and added two RBI. Freshmen Jordan Sweeney and Grant Shulman recorded their first base hits for RU.

Saturday: Rutgers 16, North Florida 4

After the teams traded zeroes in two innings, Rutgers broke out with three runs in the 3rd capped by a Chris Brito double plating two. After a solo home run from Peter Serruto in the 4th, Rutgers added their 5th run later in the frame on a Nyisztor sacrifice fly. North Florida got both back in the bottom half, but Rutgers starter Tommy Genuario escaped a bases loaded jam by inducing a foul out and a fielders’ choice to preserve the 5-2 advantage.

Rutgers picked their hurler up by putting up yet another crooked number with a four run 5th inning to open up a 9-2 lead. It was a methodical rally including singles by Chris Brito, Grant Shulman, and Peter Serruto. Dan DiGeorgio and Sam Owens each doubled, each with 2 RBI on the contact.

North Florida got one back in the 6th, but Rutgers again countered on an RBI single from Mike Nyisztor. Rutgers was not satisfied though and added window dressing with a six run 8th though most was Ospreys’ self-inflicted damage; two walks scored runs in addition to two hit batters. Jordan Sweeney singled up the middle to plate the final two runs for the Knights.

Decisive stat: For the second straight day Rutgers got a quality start, this time from Genuario (6.0 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 2 SO) who earned his first win of the season.

Notable: Parker Scott pitched the final three innings to earn the save. DiGeorgio and Sam Owens each scored three times AND drove in three runs. Nyisztor added three RBI and Serruto scored three times. Rutgers stole three bases.

Sunday: Rutgers 7, North Florida 6

Rutgers had to show its mettle in a nail biter for just the second time this season, but this time came out victorious. The Scarlet Knights opened things up with two in the first including a Chris Brito RBI single and a steal of home by Richie Schiekofer on a first and third play. Unfortunately Tevin Murray was not sharp early and allowed three runs in the bottom half. Murray did strike out two to strand two runners though and escape further trouble.

Rutgers evened things up in the second courtesy of a Victor Valderrama double. Chris Brito put Rutgers ahead with a solo homer and Andy Axelson singled in another run during the two-run fourth. Murray (1-1) kept the Ospreys at bay for two more innings, leaving with the 5-3 lead.

The Scarlet Knights put together two more runs to open up a 7-3 lead in the 8th after two shutout frames from Kyle Muller out of the Rutgers bullpen. Eric Reardon followed with one of his own to enter the bottom of the 9th and the Knights holding a seemingly safe four run advantage. Jared Bellissimo was called upon and got himself in trouble by allowing three singles in four batters. It looked like he was about to get out of it, but an error by shortstop Dan DiGeorgio allowed the 5th run to score. Rutgers traded a flyout for a run before Bellissimo got the game ending strikeout and even the Scarlet Knights’ record at 3-3 on the 2020 season.

Decisive stat: For the first time since covering this team, there wasn’t one. Both teams had 12 hits and one error. This was just a game where one team came out on top and it was Rutgers. Sometimes the ball bounces your way enough to get a win, barely. Or you steal a run with a first and third play. And that’s why insurance runs matter.

Notable: Chris Brito had three hits and two RBI. Schiekofer and Tim Dezzi scored twice.

Series Takeaway(s): 1. Rutgers batters need to stay within themselves. If you stick to looking for base hits early, the bigger swings will come later. They did just that in this series. 2. Rutgers will continue to patch it together on the mound. They don’t have numbers on the staff so don’t look for many matchup bullpen calls, but rather complete innings where relievers will have to get out of their own jams. By its relievers pitching mostly clean in the blowouts Friday and Saturday, the staff had more options at their disposal in Sunday’s affair, the recipe for sustained success as a baseball team. 3. This team will live and die with its starting three pitchers and the defense behind them. Rutkowski was on cruise control, Genuario was good, and Murray persevered through five innings, so they each earned their first win of 2020. RU committed just two errors all series and had more than that number of sparking defensive plays.

B1G League Chew: Six players had a three hit game in this series for Rutgers. That is what they need to do to score enough runs and win ballgames.

Next up: The first attempt at a home game takes place Tuesday, 2 pm, at Bainton Field against Wagner. Currently the high is 50 degrees with a 60% chance of rain.

Then a three game weekend series Feb 28, Feb 29, and Mar 1 in Peoria, Arizona against Washington State. Pack the sunscreen.