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Two takeaways from Rutgers baseball's series defeat against Purdue

The Rutgers baseball team lost 2 out of 3 games to Purdue and is now at risk of missing out on the Big Ten Tournament. – Photo by Tom Gilbert /

The Rutgers baseball team lost its series against Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana, this weekend. Though, the Scarlet Knights (26-18, 8-7) were able to avoid getting swept by winning the last game of the series against the Boilermakers (21-22, 10-8). Here are the two main takeaways from the in-conference series.

Bats go cold for Rutgers in the first two games

Rutgers entered its series with Purdue near the top of the stat sheet in batting average and hits. The bats were unable to stay hot for the Knights in their first two games at Alexander Field.

In Friday's game, Rutgers was silenced for only 1 run and five hits. Two of those 5 hits came from junior outfielder Ryan Lasko. Boilermakers starting pitcher Khal Stephen fired 7.1 innings of 1-run ball while only allowing four hits and two walks in one of his best starts of the season. Stephen earned his sixth victory of the season in a 6-1 win in the series opener.

The Knights had no answer for Stephen and left seven runners on base. It was Rutgers' second-worst game at the plate in terms of runs since they were shut out by Campbell in the second game of the season on February 18.

Yesterday's game wasn't much of an improvement for the Knights as they fell once again, this time by a score of 6-3. While Rutgers produced more hits and runs than Friday's game, Junior left-handed pitcher Grant Besser allowed 5 runs early in the contest, which made it hard for them to come back for the win.

Even so, Purdue only scored 6 runs as the Knights' bullpen was able to hold off any more damage from the Boilermakers. Rutgers has scored at least 6 runs in more than half of its games this season, but the Knights' bats went cold again in the second game of the series.

It’s tough to win Big Ten games when you have 1-run and 3-run outings. Luckily, Rutgers was able to bounce back when it faced off against Purdue Sunday afternoon.

Avoiding the sweep … but at what cost?

In today's series closer, the Knights defeated the Boilermakers by a score of 9-5 to stop the sweep. The game started off rough as Purdue jumped to a 5-0 lead by the fourth inning.

Luckily for Rutgers, junior infielder Jordan Sweeney had a strong game at the plate. In the fifth inning, Sweeney singled home a run and then in the seventh inning, The player also hit a 3-run home run to right center field to bring the Knights within 1 run.

Rutgers scored the next 5 runs marking an unanswered 9-run rally on the way to its eighth conference victory of the season.

While avoiding a sweep is nice, losing the series in a very even conference is not ideal as the season reaches its final stretch. In the Big Ten, nine teams have at least eight conference wins on the season, which makes every in-conference matchup and series crucial. Ideally, the Knights want to win the rest of their conference series to climb their way up the standings.

With the Big Ten Tournament approaching very soon, every game counts even more, and Rutgers will have to show more dominance in the conference if they want to receive a high seed and a potential national tournament bid.

This week, the Knights will start a two-week homestand at Bainton Field on Livingston campus, starting with a midweek series against Princeton followed by a weekend series against conference foe Penn State.

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

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