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Rutgers baseball sweeps Ohio State as showdown with Maryland awaits

The Scarlet Knights maintained their lead in the Big Ten standings as the second place Terps visit Piscataway this coming weekend.

Ryan Lasko had a monster weekend in leading the Scarlet Knights to its fourth series sweep in Big Ten play this season.
Ben Solomon/Rutgers Athletics

Rutgers baseball has now won five games in a row and completed its fourth series sweep against Big Ten foes after winning all three contests at Ohio State (13-26; 3-13) this past weekend. The offense produced 30 runs over the three wins as Ryan Lasko had a monster series to lead the way. The Scarlet Knights are 36-9 overall this season and remain in first place atop the Big Ten standings with a 15-3 league record.

Lasko had at least three hits in all three games and finished the series batting 10 of 16 at the plate with 5 home runs, 10 RBIs and 7 runs scored along with 1 stolen base. He went deep three times on Saturday and two more times on Sunday. It was a tremendous weekend for the center fielder and if you included the win over Hofstra last Wednesday, Lasko finished the week with a stat line of 14 of 21 at the plate with 5 home runs, 14 RBIs, 9 runs scored, & 2 stolen bases.

“He’s a great player and he just had one of those special weekends,” head coach Steve Owens said. ”Ryan can take over a weekend. He’s a really, really good player. The thing that’s crazy is his entire skillset of defense, offense and baserunning. He just does everything well. This whole weekend was huge for him.”

On Friday, Rutgers defeated Ohio State 6-4 as Evan Sleight had two home runs and three RBIs while Chris Brito had three hits including a solo homer. Sleight’s two-run homer in the first inning gave RU a 3-0 lead that they never relinquished. Starter Jared Kollar improved to 7-1 on the season in allowing 2 earned runs in five innings. Closer Dale Stanavich recorded the final four outs of the game for his ninth save of the season.

On Saturday, it was tied 1-1 in the sixth inning when the Scarlet Knights exploded for seven runs to break the game open. Lasko’s first of three homers was a grand slam and Tony Santa Maria knocked in two more in the same frame on a single. Starter Nathan Florence allowed two earned runs over five innings to improve to 5-2 on the season. Sam Bello was huge out of the bullpen, allowing just one earned run over four innings to save the rest of the relievers for the series finale.

On Sunday, the bullpen was needed in a major way as starter Justin Sinibaldi was knocked out of the game in the first inning after allowing four earned runs. RU made it a one run game in the third before the Buckeyes scored four more runs to lead 8-3. As this team has proven time and again all season, no deficit is too large to overcome. Rutgers tied the game with 5 runs in the sixth inning and won it 11-8 after scoring 8 unanswered runs.

Lasko came up huge once again, hitting a 3-run homer to cut the deficit to one run in the sixth before producing the game winning hit with a solo homer in the seventh to take the lead for good. Catcher Nick Cimillo returned in this series after missing four games due to a minor injury the week before and hit two of his three home runs in the weekend on Sunday, finishing the day going 4 of 6 from the plate with 2 RBIs and 2 runs. Getting Cimillo back is key as he continues to lead the Big Ten in slugging percentage and OPS in addition to being second in batting average and on-base percentage.

The Rutgers pen didn’t allow a run over the last six frames with Sam Pornoy pitching 2 23 inning of scoreless relief in the middle innings. Ben Gorski got one out to improve to 4-0 on the season while Dale Stanavich earned his second four-out save of the weekend and tenth overall this spring.

“They were swinging the bats really well and we weren’t pitching well in the beginning of the game,” Owens said. “Sam came in and settled it down for us. He did a good job and allowed us to get back in the game.”

Rutgers will travel to face in-state rival Seton Hall (14-30) on Tuesday, May 3 before hosting the biggest series of the season against No. 18 Maryland. The Terps are also having a tremendous season with a 35-9 overall record and are in second place in the Big Ten with an 11-4 record. The Scarlet Knights have just two conference series left on the schedule, including at Michigan (23-18; 9-6), while Maryland has three remaining.

This weekend’s showdown is not only an opportunity to solidify their position at the top of the Big Ten standings but also to earn more respect nationally. The Terps have been ranked most of the season and are currently No. 32 in the RPI rankings, while Rutgers is No. 45. Winning the series would be a major step towards potentially winning the Big Ten regular season title as well as inching closer to securing the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 2007.

All three games in the series are free to attend but you need to register for parking here. The series will also air live in BTN Plus. Friday’s game starts at 2:00 p.m. while the first pitch for both Saturday and Sunday begins at 1:00 p.m. We’ll have a full preview ahead of this series.

To listen to our latest podcast episode with Rutgers closer Dale Stanavich, click on the below or on any platforms you listen to podcasts. Just search “On The Banks”.