The Rutgers baseball team lost 2 out of 3 games to a struggling Penn State at home this weekend. After coming off of two winning series in the previous two weeks, the Scarlet Knights (9-8, 9-8) wanted to continue their good fortunes, but the Nittany Lions (6-11, 6-11) bats and arms came alive.
Junior left-handed pitcher Harry Rutkowski was efficient in his start, going eight innings and striking out seven in the Friday opener.
"(Rutkowski) was awesome, the best I've seen him pitch in two years," said head baseball coach Steve Owens. "He had total command of the game, good location and generated weak contact. He did a great job.”
The bats in the Rutgers lineup were silent throughout the opening game of the series. Redshirt freshman first basemen Jordan Sweeney had three hits but couldn’t knock in any runs in the game. The Knights had ten hits and were 0-9 with runners in scoring position during the game.
On the mound for Penn State was Bailey Dees, who pitched six scoreless innings after a threatening first inning that saw two Rutgers players left on base. The Nittany Lions' bullpen continued the work of Dees, finishing the game without allowing a run.
Come the seventh, Rutkowski kept Penn State at bay and the game tied at 0-0. But, Justin Williams took a high changeup over the fence for a home run, giving the Nittany Lions the lead and the game.
Graduate student left-handed pitcher Ben Wereski was looking to continue his good form on the mound in the second game of the series against Penn State. In Wereski’s last two starts, he went 14.1 innings, giving up zero runs and striking out 12 batters.
Despite the past success, the Nittany Lions got to Wereski early. In the top of the first, Penn State got three runs. Williams again earned an RBI for his team with a single and Matt Wood added a double to push the lead to 3-0.
Wereski went on to pitch three innings and gave up four runs on seven hits. The Knights bullpen stepped up and only gave up one run for the remainder of the game.
Rutgers lone run came off a solo blast by freshman first baseman Jordan Sweeney in the bottom of the seventh. The Knights didn’t touch home plate again for the game and ended up losing to the Nittany Lions 5-1.
The finale of the series got off to a hot start immediately. Graduate student right-handed pitcher Brent Teller gave up a leadoff home run to Gavin Homer, giving Penn State a 1-0 lead. Teller got the next two outs, but Williams hit the ball over the fence to push the lead to 2-0 for the Nittany Lions.
Teller went on to give up another home run in the third inning to Johnny Piacentino, the last inning on the mound for the starter. Teller pitched three innings, gave up three runs, and compiled five strikeouts.
Penn State went on to score another run from a sac fly by Williams and had a 4-0 lead going into the bottom of the eighth.
In the bottom of the eighth, Rutgers put pressure on the Nittany Lions and loaded the bases. Penn State’s Kyle Virbitsky recorded six strikeouts through 7.1 innings pitched, while Tyler Shingledecker, a lefty, was brought in to face freshman infielder Grant Shulman. Shulman was then walked to bring in the first run of the game for the Knights.
Shingledecker was taken out of the game and was replaced by Mason Mellott. Mellott walked sophomore infielder Chris Brito which brought in a run and kept the bases loaded for Sweeney. He unloaded on a first-pitch fastball, hitting a grand slam to give Rutgers a 6-4 lead that they would not relinquish, recording their lone victory in the series.
Next week, the Knights will travel to play Northwestern starting on Friday at 4 p.m.
"The whole weekend didn't go our way," Owens said. "Hats off to the bullpen and the guys for hanging there to move back over .500 to 9-8 heading into next weekend."
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