It was a beautiful weekend for baseball, and the Rutgers baseball team took on Ohio State. In the three-game series, the Scarlet Knights (6-5, 6-5) won 2 out of the 3 games against the Buckeyes (6-5, 6-5).
In the opener, Rutgers turned to junior pitcher Harry Rutkowski. Rutkowski, who started the game, bounced back from his start against Maryland by giving his team six innings, 11 strikeouts and managing to only give up two unearned runs.
This was a back and forth matchup that saw both teams try to hit their way to victory. Sophomore third baseman Chris Brito and freshman first baseman Jordan Sweeney both hit home runs in the game, giving the Knights an offensive boost to keep them in contention.
In the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded, sophomore left fielder Victor Valderrama singled up the middle to tie the game 5-5, pushing the game into extra innings.
The game went scoreless until the 11th when Valderrama came back up with a runner on third and a full count. Valderrama connected and hit the ball to centerfield, flying out but bringing the runner from third home on the tag, winning the game for Rutgers.
“I trusted my practice and preparation,” Valderrama said.
In the second game of the series, senior pitcher Ben Wereski had a stellar performance. Against the Buckeyes, he threw 7.1 innings of shutout baseball, punching out four opposing batters and giving up only three hits, and brought his season earned run average down to 2.00.
"(Wereski) was throwing strikes, getting ahead of hitters, mixing his pitches and locating," said head baseball coach Steve Owens. "When you do all four of those things with four pitches, you can pitch long into the game, and that's what he did."
The Knights had only one hit in the game, coming in the bottom of the first. Brito came up with a man on and hit a two-run home run, pushing his Big Ten leading home run total to 8 on the season.
"Brito is a good hitter and has a good approach right now," Owens said. "He is a very coachable young man, and we're proud of him for what he's doing.
Ohio State couldn’t get any runs on the board, while its starter Seth Lonsway gave up one hit in his seven innings of work with eight strikeouts. In the end, Rutgers held onto that first-inning lead to win the game 2-0.
Rutgers registered its lone run in the game in the bottom of the first from freshman outfielder Ryan Lasko. In the fifth inning, the Knights had a chance to pull away with the game. They had the bases loaded with one out, but the next two batters proceeded to strike out, stranding the runners on base.
This upcoming weekend, Rutgers will be taking on Purdue in a three-game series in West Lafayette.
“We squandered a great opportunity," Owens said. “We had a chance to score more in the first, they pitched out of it. We had two other opportunities with bases loaded and one out and were unable to score a run. That was 100 percent the difference in the game today.”
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