On May 29, Rutgers baseball fell to Michigan 10-4 in the Big Ten Tournament championship game. The next day saw the Scarlet Knights (44-15, 17-7) look for their name to be called during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show.
Rutgers' wait was in vain as its name would never be called because the NCAA committee left the team out of its 64-team field, putting the Knights as one of the first four teams out. This deflating conclusion capped a season that was otherwise historic for Rutgers.
The Knights finished their regular season with a 41-14 record, finishing second in the Big Ten standings during the regular season. Rutgers' regular-season win total was a new program record, and its second-place finish was the highest finish in the Big Ten ever.
It was also the first time that the program qualified for the eight team Big Ten Tournament in Omaha, Nebraska. In the tournament, the Knights went undefeated on their road to the final before losing to the Wolverines (34-28, 12-12).
Rutgers' turnaround to be a competitive Big Ten baseball program has been rapid under head coach Steve Owens. In 2021, the Knights went 21-23 in a conference-only schedule and finished eighth.
The 2020 season was cut prematurely by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, and in 2019, Rutgers finished 20-31 and 9-14 in conference play. This was the Knights’ first season with a winning record in the Big Ten, which they joined in 2015.
Rutgers finished first in the Big Ten in team batting average hitting .320 and second in team earned run average (ERA) with a 4.22. The Knights' .980 fielding percentage was good for first in the conference, as well.
Rutgers’ offense was led by junior catcher Nick Cimillo, graduate student infielder Danny DiGeorgio, sophomore outfielder Ryan Lasko and junior infielder Chris Brito. Cimillo led the whole Big Ten with a .385 batting average, and DiGeorgio was third hitting .368. Cimillo also led the conference with a .707 slugging percentage.
Lasko batted leadoff for the Knights, hitting .349 on the season and leading the Big Ten with 24 doubles and 81 runs scored. Brito’s 16 home runs were tied with Lasko and Cimillo for the team lead. His 74 runs batted in (RBI) were good for second in the Big Ten and also set a new program record for RBIs in a season. DiGeorgio is a finalist for the Brooks Wallace Award which is given to the top shortstop in college baseball.
Rutgers pitching was led by graduate student starting pitchers Jared Kollar and Nathan Florence and junior relief pitcher Dale Stanavich. Kollar was second of the starters on the team with a 4.36 ERA and led the rotation with 76.1 innings pitched.
Florence was sixth in the Big Ten with a 3.36 ERA and led the Knights with 90 strikeouts.
Stanavich was the closer for Rutgers and was second in the Big Ten. He had a 2.10 ERA and held his opponent's batting average to .195.
While the last two days of the Knights' season might have been shocking and disappointing, the overall season was historic. With Owens at the helm and many projected returning players, Rutgers is poised to take another step up in 2023.
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