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Rutgers baseball opens season with three-game sweep of Houston Baptist

The Scarlet Knights got back into non-conference action in a big way.

Rutgers Athletics

The Scarlet Knights began their 56-game schedule with a series against Houston Baptist over the weekend. This marked the first non-conference action for Rutgers since March 10, 2020. The 2021 season saw the Scarlet Knights make it through a 44-game Big Ten schedule with its best finish in the conference since joining the league with a 21-23 record.

Rutgers started out this season with three consecutive victories over the Huskies at Husky Field in Houston. The Scarlet Knights scored 32 runs during the opening weekend of the season.

In game one, it was the pitching that led the way. Brian Fitzpatrick tossed four hitless innings with seven strikeouts before exiting. Head coach Steve Owens revealed that his starter was on a pitch count. Sam Bello went the next 4 13 innings before Dale Stanavich got the final two outs in a 4-0 shutout victory.

The offense totaled 11 hits including two each from Mike Nyisztor, Nick Cimillo, and Evan Sleight. This set the table for an 18-run outburst on Saturday.

The Scarlet Knights fell behind 2-0 in the bottom of the first inning but were able to take the lead with three in the third inning. Rutgers blew it open with 10 runs in the sixth inning to cruise to an 18-3 victory.

Chris Brito collected two hits and three RBIs in the inning and was one of five Scarlet Knights to drive in a run. Jordan Sweeney knocked in two with a double before Sleight added two more with another double.

Ben Gorski pitched three scoreless innings to get the win. Jared Kollar got the start on the hill and allowed three runs in four innings while striking out six.

The offense stayed hot in the series-finale on Sunday scoring in six consecutive innings to win 10-5.

Tony Santa Maria went 3-for-4 with three doubles and four RBIs to lead the offensive attack. Richie Schiekofer and Danny DiGeorgio also logged multi-hit games, along with Sleight.

Nathan Florence went three innings in his first start for the Scarlet Knights. Justin Sinibaldi retired six of the seven batters he faced before Garrett French made an appearance for the first time since 2019.

“It’s hard to win three games in a row at any level,” head coach Steve Owens said. “Houston Baptist played their best game today and I’m very happy we found a way, a good start to the season.”

Schiekofer finished 8-for-14 on the weekend while Santa Maria knocked in a total of eight runs. The offense remained balanced over the course of the weekend. As for the pitching staff, there will be some more length as the season progresses.

“Our pitchers were effective,” Owens said. “We will get more length from Nate and the starters as the season goes. We weren’t perfect, but competed as a staff.”

The Scarlet Knights will be back in action on Friday in Conway, SC to take on Coastal Carolina. They will continue the weekend with road matchups against North Carolina Wilmington on Saturday and Middle Tennessee on Sunday.