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Rutgers Baseball sweeps Nebraska, sit atop B1G standings

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The Scarlet Knights have won ten games in a row and are excelling in all phases.

Danny DiGeorgio hit a grand slam on Sunday and made some key plays in the field as well.
Ben Solomon/Rutgers Athletics

Rutgers baseball completed a three-game sweep of Nebraska on the road for a second straight season on Sunday. After winning Friday’s game 7-5 and holding on for a 5-4 victory on Saturday, the Scarlet Knights left little doubt on Sunday. RU exploded for a 19-1 demolition of the defending Big Ten champions and preseason favorite for the program’s tenth straight win. It’s the longest winning streak since 2004. Rutgers is now 25-6 overall this season and sits atop the Big Ten standings with an 8-1 mark in league play.

In Friday’s 7-5 win, both Nick Cimillo and Ryan Lasko had multi-hit games including a home run each while knocking in three runs apiece. Starting pitcher Jared Kollar improved to 6-0 on the season in allowing just two earned runs over 6.0 innings.

Saturday’s matchup included some controversy as Nebraska tied the game 3-3 in the seventh inning on a 3-run homer that actually hit between the fence and the padding of the wall. It was an incorrect call but Rutgers was able to overcome it with Tony Santa Maria breaking the tie in the eighth with a two-run homer that proved to be the game winning hit. A key play in the game came in the 8th on a relay from Ryan Lasko and Danny DiGeorgio to Nick Cimillo to get the Nebraska runner at home.

Starter Nate Florence pitched five scoreless innings along with seven strikeouts but reliever Garrett French earned the victory in relief. Dale Stanvich followed French in working a scoreless 1 13 innings to earn his Big Ten leading 7th save of the season.

The bats then exploded on Sunday as Rutgers broke the game open with a 10 run seventh inning after leading 3-1 at that stage of the game. The Scarlet Knights hit five homers in the game but it was Danny DiGeorgio’s grand slam that put it out of reach for good as RU led 8-1. They were just getting started though as Chris Brito was the catalyst, hitting a pair of homers knocking in five more runs as well as a single to bring home another run. Justin Sinibaldi allowed just one run through five innings to improve to 2-0 on the season.

”We pitched well today. Justin stepped up and did a nice job and that was really important,” head coach Steve Owens said. “We played errorless baseball and we didn’t give away too many free passes. I think we played very well in all aspects of the game.”

The winning streak now stands at 10 games after Rutgers outscored Nebraska 31-10 in the three game sweep. After only sweeping two Big Ten foes since beginning play in the conference back in 2015, Rutgers has now done it on back to back series’ after sweeping Minnesota last weekend. For Nebraska, they hadn’t been swept at home against a conference foe dating back to 2009 before Rutgers did it last season and now again this past weekend. They haven’t been swept by any other Big Ten team since they joined the league in 2012.

“You’ve got to play hard on Sundays,” Owens said. “It’s really hard when you’ve been on the field as much as we play on the weekend. I’m really happy with team’s effort. We’re going to go back home for a few weeks and we’re excited to be back at home.”

Rutgers (25-6; 8-1) returns home for a six game homestand and will play their next 11 contests in the state of New Jersey. They’ll host Lafayette (11-23) on Tuesday, April 12 and Penn (19-8) on Wednesday, April 13 at Bainton Field, followed by a three game series against Big Ten foe Indiana (12-18; 2-4) this coming weekend. The following week, RU hosts Iona (0-27) on Tuesday, April 19, and then travels to face in-state rival Princeton (4-21) on Wednesday, April 20. The Iowa Hawkeyes (16-12; 3-3) will then visit Bainton Field for a three game series from April 22-24. Hofstra (13-13) will conclude the four game homestand on Tuesday, April 26 before the Scarlet Knights travel to Ohio State (10-17; 1-5) to close out the month with a three game series in Columbus.

For the first time since 2010, Rutgers is ranked. On Monday, Collegiate Baseball Newspaper ranked RU at No. 22. D1 Baseball didn’t include the Scarlet Knights in their latest poll released on Monday. They did receive 14 votes in the USA Today coaches poll last week, which had them nine places out of the Top 25. I’ll update the polls once more are released this week.

The bottom line is Rutgers is playing tremendous baseball in head coach Steve Owens’ third season at the helm. They are proving to be a complete team as they lead the Big Ten in batting, pitching and fielding. The Scarlet Knights have never played in the eight team Big Ten Tournament although they would have qualified last season it if had taken place. The reality is this team has a legitimate chance at a Big Ten regular season title and real hope they can advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007. They’ll look to keep it going this week at home and stay tuned for full coverage here at On The Banks.