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Rutgers baseball to start Big Ten play against Penn State

Junior catcher Nick Cimillo looks to continue his fast start to the season as the Rutgers baseball team travels to Penn State for a weekend series. – Photo by Thomas Shea / Scarletknights

The Rutgers baseball team will kick off Big Ten play this weekend when the team heads to Medlar Field in University Park, Pennsylvania, to take on Penn State.

The Scarlet Knights (14-5, 0-0) started their season red hot winning 10 out of their first 11 games but have recently cooled off, going 4-4 in their last eight games. Rutgers is 6-1 in stand-alone games and has two series wins, one series tie and one series loss.

The Knights will open the series against the Nittany Lions (7-11, 0-0) with a doubleheader starting today at 3 p.m., with both games being broadcasted on Big Ten Network+. Tomorrow, Rutgers will play the final game of the series at 5 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.

The Knights are coming into Big Ten play with a midweek 5-2 win against Rider. Head coach Steve Owens used six pitchers in the midweek victory.

“It's a midweek game where we're happy to get on the good end," Owens said. "We're still recovering from a long trip. We'll practice hard for a couple of days, sleep good and get ready for Big Ten play."

As mentioned, Rutgers has had a strong start to the season. The Knights are first in the Big Ten in team batting average with a .318 average, third in runs batted in (RBIs) with 145 RBIs and first again with a .978 fielding percentage.

On offense, junior catcher Nick Cimillo and sophomore outfielder Evan Sleight have led Rutgers. 

Cimillo is second in the Big Ten with a .426 batting average while Sleight is behind him at third with a .415 average. Cimillo also leads the Knights with five home runs. Opposing pitchers will also have to worry about graduate student infielder Danny DiGeorgio as he currently leads the team with 22 RBIs.

On the mound, graduate student starting pitchers Jared Kollar and Nathan Florence are in the top-five in earned run average (ERA) in the Big Ten. Kollar is third with a 1.84 ERA, and Florence is fifth with a 2.25 ERA.

Junior relief pitcher Dale Stanavich leads all relief pitchers on the team who pitched 12 innings or more with a 0.73 ERA and is second in the Big Ten with four saves. Kollar leads all Rutgers pitchers with 34 strikeouts in 29.1 innings pitched and has been by far the most effective starting pitcher for the Knights.

Penn State is coming off of a 2-1 loss against Youngstown State on Tuesday and a series win against Milwaukee over the weekend. The Nittany Lions have a .254 team batting average and have a team 5.18 ERA. The Knights’ pitchers will have to worry about Matt Wood, who leads Penn State with a .345 batting average.

Starting today, Rutgers will look to get a series win to start Big Ten play for the second year in a row. Last season, the Knights won their first two conference games against Indiana and Minnesota.

For updates on the Rutgers baseball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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