No. 2 seed Rutgers defeated No. 7 Purdue 10-3 on Thursday for the program’s first ever Big Ten Tournament victory. The win also tied a program record with 42 on the season. They advanced to the winners bracket of the double elimination tournament and will face No. 6 Penn State on Friday at approximately 2 p.m. ET. BTN is televising every Big Ten Tournament game live.
After All-Big Ten starter Jared Kollar surrendered 3 runs in the second inning and left in the third inning, the Rutgers bullpen came up huge in throwing 6 2⁄3 of scoreless relief. Sam Portnoy came in and settled the game down with 2 2⁄3 innings of which in which he allowed three hits and no runs. Garrett French followed with 1 1⁄3 innings of scoreless relief. First Team All-Big Ten closer Dale Stanavich struck out three and allowed just two hits in 2 2⁄3 innings earning his first win of the season.
“Sam’s been awesome. If you’ve paying attention to the last month of the season, that kid has been locked in and lights out,” head coach Steve Owens said of Sam Portnoy. “He’s different, he gives us a different look and he’s done awesome.
With the bullpen keeping the Scarlet Knights in the game, the top of the lineup drew four consecutive walks to take the lead. The next three batters all came through in driving runs home off of contact. Tony Santa Maria then had an infield single off a hard hit ball the third baseman dove for that scored a run.
Rutgers takes the lead!!— Rutgers Baseball (@RutgersBaseball) May 26, 2022
Evan Sleight draws a bases loaded walk and Tony Santa Maria hits an RBI single as we take a 5-3 lead over Purdue! pic.twitter.com/ljGggBmvvM
Richie Schiekofer knocked home a run on a groundout and then Josh Kuroda-Grauer’s single broke the game open as two runs scored.
JKG!!!!— Rutgers Baseball (@RutgersBaseball) May 26, 2022
The true freshman with a massive 2-run single to give us an 8-3 over Purdue!! pic.twitter.com/j1LoeVoLsB
Evan Sleight delivered a two run double in the eighth inning to leave no doubt in the outcome.
Evan Sleight adds to the lead!!— Rutgers Baseball (@RutgersBaseball) May 26, 2022
A 2-run double into the corner gives us a 10-3 over Purdue!! pic.twitter.com/IPK0Kv4Sgw
Santa Maria went 3 for 5 with 2 runs scored and an RBI. Sleight was 2 of 4 with 3 RBIs and a run scored. Kuroda-Grauer was 2 of 4 with 2 RBIs while Ryan Lasko started the game off with a solo homer and scored twice. Mike Nyisztor also drove in two runs to tie the game in the second inning.
“Purdue threw probably 150 sliders today. We chased some early in the game. The second and third time through the lineup, the guys did a better job,” Owens said. “We took some walks and then we got some hits in key spots. You can’t swing at balls and score runs. I think guys were amped up a little bit and then they did a pretty good job of settling into the game.”
It was a much needed victory for Rutgers (42-14) in its first ever appearance in the Big Ten Tournament. With an RPI of No. 43 entering Thursday, every win that Steve Owens’ team can get will help their case to earn the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth in 15 years.
No, 6 Penn State (26-27) upset No. 3 Iowa in the first game of the day 5-2 and will face RU in the second game played on Friday. The Scarlet Knights took 2 of 3 against the Nittany Lions in State College back in March. The game will feature the two best catchers in the league in Matt Wood of PSU and Nick Cimillo of Rutgers. Wood edged out Cimillo for the Big Ten batting title while the RU backstop did the same with OPS. The game will air live on BTN at approximately 2 p.m. ET.