Rutgers baseball made history in more ways than one on Friday in Omaha, Nebraska. The No. 2 seeded Scarlet Knights outlasted No. 6 Penn State 5-4 to advance to the semifinal round of the Big Ten Tournament for the first time ever. In addition, it marked the 43rd victory of this spring for RU, which set a new record for the most wins in a single season in program history. That dates back to the program forming in 1870.
Starter Nate Florence produced the pitching performance of the season for Rutgers in hurling 8+ innings of 1 run, 3 hit ball along with 10 strikeouts. He took the mound in the 9th inning with RU leading 4-0 before allowing a walk and exiting the game. Ben Gorski entered out of the bullpen but was unable to close the game out. The Nittany Lions scored 4 runs to tie the game and send it to extra innings.
In the 10th inning, Rutgers regained the lead when Richie Schiekofer hit a sacrifice fly to score Chris Brito. Sam Bello then came on in relief for a 1-2-3 inning to seal the historic victory.
“We got the team together and said ‘someone’s going to win this,’” head coach Steve Owens said. “We have got to keep playing to the end. Our guys have been very good with that all year. That’s what a good team does. They move on past the bad stuff that happened and they control what they can control. And our guys did a super job with that.”
Chris Brito was 2 of 3 at the plate with 2 RBIs and scored the game inning run. Schiekofer went 1 of 4 but had 2 RBIs including the decisive one in the game.
It was a shame Rutgers couldn’t close out the game for Nate Florence. However, it doesn’t take away from what a dominant performance he delivered in a such a clutch start for his team.
“He was awesome today. He threw a lot of strikes. He had a good changeup early, had a good breaking ball in the middle and thew a lot of fastballs,” Owens said. “He stayed out there to the ninth inning and we haven’t gone past five or six the whole year. I let him go because he kept doing his job and did it really well. We needed that length today and he was awesome.”
Rutgers will play in the semifinals on Saturday night at approximately 10:00 p.m. ET. and will air live on BTN. They’ll either play No. 8 seed Indiana, who eliminated No. 4 seed Illinois on Friday afternoon or No. 1 seed Maryland, who lost to No. 5 seed Michigan 15-8 on Friday night. The matchup will take place on Saturday at 2 p.m. to determine who will face the Scarlet Knights on Saturday night. If RU can win they would advance to the Big Ten Tournament championship game on Sunday with two chances to win one game for the title.