The Rutgers baseball team took 2 out of 3 games this weekend against Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana. The Scarlet Knights' (8-6, 8-6) pitching was key early in the series, but in the final game, their offense exploded, giving them all they needed to win the game.
In the first game of the series, junior pitcher Harry Rutkowski pitched deep into the game, going 8.1 innings while getting his season earned run average down to 2.84 by only allowing one earned run in his outing.
The Rutgers bats were hot to start the game, especially the bat of freshman outfielder Ryan Lasko, who homered in his first two at-bats, giving the Knights a 3-0 lead in the first three innings. Shortly after Lasko’s second home run, redshirt freshman outfielder Evan Sleight hit a single up the middle to push the lead to 4-0 going into the bottom of the third inning.
Head baseball coach Steve Owens was enthusiastic about Lasko’s game and how he was able to bring a spark to the Rutgers offense.
“Ryan's approach today was incredible because he hit the right pitches," Owens said. "He hit the zone breaking pitch, and then, they tried to come in on him with a fastball. It was a tremendous performance from him, and we needed it.”
The Boilermakers (3-11, 3-11) started Trent Johnson with unsuccessful results, as Johnson gave up six runs while also hitting two batters in the game. Purdue then turned to Nick Alvarado, who gave up one unearned run with four strikeouts in four innings of relief.
With Rutkowski out of the game in the bottom of the ninth, the Boilermakers found themselves with the bases loaded when Cam Thompson hit a ball over the left-field fence for a grand slam, making the Knights' lead shrink to 2. Even with the late rally, Rutgers won the game, but that late-inning spark in game one would find its way into game two of the series.
Senior pitcher Ben Wereski played skillfully for the Knights in game two. In seven innings, Wereski gave up no runs, struck out eight batters and did not allow a single walk. On the mound for Purdue was Calvin Schapira, who dueled it out with Wereski, with both throwing six scoreless innings to start the game.
In the seventh, Schapira found trouble with sophomore third baseman Chris Brito up with the base loaded with two outs. Brito hit the ball to the right-field wall for a bases-clearing double, pushing Rutgers's lead to 4-0 late into the contest.
In the ninth inning, the Boilermakers went on to score seven runs to win the game. The walk-off hit was a three-run home run off of the bat of Purdue's Mason Gavre, which evened the series going into the Sunday finale.
The final game of the series saw the Knights' offense dominate. In the first, Rutgers scored four runs coming off of two hits and a walk to jump out to an early lead. Jett Jackson was only able to record two outs in his start for the Boilermakers before having to leave the game.
The top of the fourth saw the Knights score seven runs, with four of those coming from Brito. Brito hit a grand slam, his ninth home run of the season while pushing his runs batted in total to 26 for the year, extending his Big Ten leading totals in both offensive categories.
Graduate student pitcher Brent Teller was on for Rutgers, throwing seven innings in his longest start of the season. The ball was then handed to sophomore pitcher Nate McLain, who pitched the last two innings in relief of Teller. The Knights ended up winning the game 15-4 and took the series 2 games to 3 against Purdue.
Rutgers will look to build on its back-to-back series wins when it plays a series against Penn State on Friday at Bainton Field.
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