The Rutgers baseball team barely avoided getting swept this weekend against Iowa, having dropped 3 games in the 4-game series.
Game one of the series saw a pair of aces start on the mound in junior pitcher Harry Rutkowski for the Scarlet Knights (12-12, 12-12) and Trenton Wallace for the Hawkeyes (15-10, 15-10). Both pitchers struggled, giving up five or more runs in less than five innings of work.
The game started out with a leadoff home run coming off the bat of Ben Norman, putting Iowa ahead after just one batter.
It was a back and forth game with the Hawkeyes taking the lead in the fifth. In his return to the lineup for Rutgers, fifth-year senior shortstop Danny DiGeorgio hit a home run to tie the game and went 2-3 with 2 RBIs in the game.
The Knights saw a big game from freshman outfielder Ryan Lasko, who homered in the bottom of the fourth, scoring three runs and, at that point in the game, putting Rutgers ahead by 1, with the score at 5-4.
Coming into the top of the ninth, the Knights were leading 10-7 and only needed three outs to win the game. They proceeded to give up seven runs in the inning, and the Hawkeyes held on for the win, even with junior infielder/outfielder Mike Nyisztor and Lasko driving in runs to try and cut the deficit in the ninth.
"We squandered the game, we gave it to them," said head baseball coach Steve Owens. "You have to play 27 outs defensively, and we continue to struggle out of the bullpen. Our offense did a tremendous job against the best starter in the conference.”
Saturday marked a doubleheader for both teams. In the seven-inning and nine-inning games, Iowa came away with the victories.
Wereski pitched a complete game and allowed two earned runs. His quality start was matched by Hawkeye Drew Irvine, who threw seven innings as well and gave up only one run.
“Ben wasn't perfect, but good enough to work seven innings and a complete game. He allowed only three runs and that normally gives you an opportunity to win,” Owens said.
Lasko tried to energize the Knights' bats with another home run, but that was all they would get as they would lose the game 3-1.
It was a pitcher’s duel for the first seven innings of the game, with Cam Baumann taking the ball for Iowa, pitching seven innings and striking out four.
Come the top of the seventh, the Knights brought in redshirt freshman pitcher Brian Fitzpatrick, who gave up two runs in 1.2 innings of work. The ball was then handed to redshirt freshman pitcher Ben Gorski, who gave up two runs, two walks and was not able to record an out in his appearance.
Rutgers went on to lose the game 8-1.
After a stellar first start the week before, freshman pitcher Justin Sinibaldi could not replicate that success. In his 2.1 innings of work, Sinibaldi gave up six runs to the Hawkeyes on three hits and walked four batters.
Iowa jumped out to a big lead early, scoring three runs in both the second and third innings. Norman hit a three-run home run in the second inning on a 2-0 count, and Sinibaldi could not get through the next inning.
Sophomore pitcher Jared Bellissimo came in for Sinibaldi and was excellent out of the bullpen. In 4.1 innings of work, Bellissimo allowed no runs, giving the Knights a chance to stay in the game.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Rutgers offense erupted, scoring five runs, with four coming off of a grand slam by redshirt freshman outfielder Evan Sleight.
The bats stayed hot for the Knights, and they walked off the game in the bottom of the ninth due to an error from Matthew Sosa on a ball hit by DiGeorgio, winning 8-7.
Next weekend Rutgers will be traveling to play No. 25 Michigan for a three-game series.
“We've been preaching to play nine innings and 27 outs. They did a good job of battling. (Bellissimo) settled the ship on the mound, and we got a big hit from (Sleight) to shift the momentum. It was a good way to end the weekend,” Owens said.
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