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Rutgers baseball wins 1st Big Ten series of season over Penn State

Sophomore outfielder Ryan Lasko and the Rutgers baseball team used a 20-run performance to claim a series victory over Penn State, winning 2 of the program's first 3 Big Ten games this season.  – Photo by Rutgers Baseball / Twitter

Yesterday, the Rutgers baseball team finished its weekend series against Penn State. The Scarlet Knights (16-6, 2-1) split Friday’s doubleheader before winning the rubber match yesterday.

Rutgers started its series with a 6-4 victory against the Nittany Lions (8-13, 1-2). The Knights struck first in the top of the first inning when junior catcher Nick Cimillo drove in sophomore outfielder Ryan Lasko on a sacrifice fly ball to center field. 

Penn State would score a run in the bottom of the first before scoring three more runs in the bottom of the third inning to take a 4-1 lead. 

Rutgers would take the lead back using a one-run fourth inning and a three-run fifth inning that had the program leading 5-4 heading into the sixth inning. 

In the top of the seventh inning, junior infielder Chris Brito grounded into a double play and sophomore outfielder Evan Sleight crossed the plate to score an unearned run, pushing the Knights’ lead to 6-4. 

That would be all the runs they would need as junior relief pitcher Dale Stanavich came in and earned a five-out save.

“(Lasko) had a really good day. (Cimillo) had a big hit. And then (Stanavich) was able to close it down for us," said head coach Steve Owens. "These are tough games, Big Ten games. It was a tough win."

In the second game of the series, the Nittany Lions evened the series at a game apiece with an 8-6 victory. 

Rutgers struck first once again, as it scored four runs in the top of the first inning. Despite the Knights scoring another run in the fourth, Penn State was able to score three runs to close the gap to 5-3 by the fifth inning. 

The Nittany Lions' bats continued to stay hot, scoring two runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Rutgers would never recover from the deficit as the game ended in an 8-6 loss.

Owens used seven pitchers in the loss while Lasko continued hitting well, going 2 for 3 with two walks. Sophomore infielder Tony Santa Maria also contributed in the loss, going 2 for 3 with a walk and a run batted in (RBI).

The Knights would win the rubber match of the series in impressive fashion, winning 20-6. It was a historic day for Rutgers, who set Big Ten program records in hits in a game with 25 and runs in a game with 20.

The Knights would start by scoring seven unanswered runs in the first four innings. In the top of the fifth inning, Rutgers scored another four runs to take an 11-0 lead. Penn State was able to reduce the gap by putting up five runs in the bottom of the fifth. 

Then, in the ninth inning with the Knights up 12-6, the program blew the game open by scoring eight runs in the top of the ninth inning and finishing the game with a 20-6 win.

Lasko, Cimillo, Santa Maria and graduate student infielder Danny DiGeorgio all had at least four hits in the victory, with Santa Maria and DiGeorgio each accumulating five hits. Lasko had an incredible series, finishing the weekend 9 for 12 with three RBIs, five runs, two doubles, a home run, five walks and two stolen bases.

"Our guys showed up, and they were ready to play, as evidenced by the first inning. That's a good sign and that's what we preach — play every inning hard until the end," said Owens.

Rutgers will look to build off its momentum when they take on NJIT on Tuesday, Saint Peter’s on Wednesday and Minnesota in a weekend series. All games will be at Bainton Field on Livingston campus.

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

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