The Rutgers baseball team’s home Big Ten opener reflected its fast start to the season as an impressive performance led to a series sweep of Minnesota this weekend at Bainton Field on Livingston campus. The Scarlet Knights (21-6, 4-1) played a doubleheader yesterday, overpowering the Golden Gophers (8-18, 0-3) by a combined 20-4 scoreline.
Graduate student pitcher Jared Kollar got the start in the first game. He threw six innings, giving up two runs on four hits while striking out 10 in his sixth win of the season. Sophomore pitcher Sam Bello and junior pitcher Dale Stanavich came in to relieve Kollar, with Stanavich picking up his sixth save of the year.
Early scoring for Rutgers came in unconventional ways. In the first inning, graduate student infielder Danny DiGeorgio scored after he ran out an infield single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Soon after, sophomore outfielder Evan Sleight scored from first as a fly ball dropped between two Minnesota defenders.
The Gophers scored two runs in the top of the sixth and eighth innings, but the Knights never surrendered the lead.
Rutgers got back to scoring ways quickly in the second game when freshman infielder Joshua Kuroda-Grauer secured his third run batted in of the weekend in the bottom of the second. The Knights had a two-run lead going into the fourth inning.
Senior outfielder Mike Nyisztor knocked in a run, followed by a two-run double by sophomore infielder Tony Santa Maria. Junior catcher Nick Cimillo launched another two-run double, and Rutgers tacked on two more runs before the inning was over, bringing the score to 9-0.
Graduate student pitcher Nathan Florence brought his record to 5-2 with the win. He tossed six innings, allowing one run on four hits, striking out four and giving up three walks. Sophomore pitcher Garrett French got his second save of the season with three innings pitched, giving up one run on two hits while striking out three.
Approximately 40 minutes after French closed out the game, the teams came back out for their final game. The Knights benefitted from two wild pitches in the bottom of the first, with the second one sending sophomore outfielder Ryan Lasko home.
Minnesota took its first lead of the weekend off a two-run home run in the third inning. Rutgers responded with a six-run fourth inning with the first run being Kuroda-Grauer, who scored on a wild pitch. With the bases loaded, DiGeorgio stepped up and drove in two runs on a single.
Two batters later, junior infielder Chris Brito had another bases-loaded opportunity and drove in three runs on his first double of the day, this one to left field. Brito’s next time up in the sixth inning saw him double to right field, bringing in DiGeorgio. The Knights added another run in the eighth inning.
With the sweep, Rutgers has its best record through 27 games in program history and is also out to its best start ever in Big Ten conference play.
The Knights take on Monmouth this Tuesday at 3 p.m. at Bainton Field before their weekend series against Nebraska in Lincoln, Nebraska.
"We got a lot of contributions from a lot of different players all weekend long," said head coach Steve Owens. "It's a really great weekend for us at home to win three games against any Big Ten opponent."
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