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Justin Sinibaldi, RJ Johnson Jr. shine in Rutgers baseball's series win over UConn

Senior left-handed pitcher Justin Sinibaldi was dealing on the mound for the Rutgers baseball team, tossing a complete-game shutout on Friday against UConn. – Photo by Evan Leong

The Rutgers baseball team earned a series win against UConn this weekend at Bainton Field on Livingston campus. The Scarlet Knights (17-7, 0-0) were able to come out on top in the first two games, but they fell to the Huskies (9-13, 0-0) in the series finale.

Game 1: Rutgers wins 3-0

For almost seven innings, the game was at a standstill as senior left-handed pitchers Justin Sinibaldi and Gabe Van Emon were locked in a pitching battle.

Finally, redshirt junior infielder Tony Santa Maria broke the ice with a solo shot over the right field wall, giving Rutgers a 1-0 lead.

The Knights were able to tack on two more runs in the inning after a run-scoring single from freshman infielder Ty Doucette and a sacrifice bunt from graduate student infielder Johnny Volpe plated junior infielder Josh Kuroda-Grauer.

Rutgers would take a three-run lead into the eighth inning and did not give it up.

The star of the game was Sinibaldi, who pitched a complete-game shutout, allowing just four hits and one walk with nine strikeouts in his nine innings on the mound.

"I was just throwing three pitches for strikes where I wanted it to," Sinibaldi said. "Just controlled everything, and they weren't really hitting it, so I got ahead of a lot of guys, and I kind of just put them away when I needed to."

Sinibaldi believes his start on the mound set the tone for what would become a series victory over UConn.

"Going out there and (doing) that for my team was huge — kind of saved pitching for the whole week ahead," Sinibaldi said. "It was kind of big for me, and then, overall as a team, it was even bigger."

Game 2: Rutgers wins 13-6

The Knights' bats were much more active in Saturday's game.

Rutgers obtained a 4-0 lead in the second inning after back-to-back run-scoring doubles from senior infielder Cameron Love and junior outfielder RJ Johnson Jr. Sophomore outfielder Trevor Cohen scored Johnson Jr. after he sent his first home run of the season into orbit.

The Huskies and the Knights would trade a pair of runs in the third inning, with Bryan Padilla and freshman catcher Jackson Natili each blasting two-run home runs to put the score at 6-2 in favor of Rutgers after three frames.

In the fourth inning, the Knights would extend their lead to 8-2 after Doucette knocked home Santa Maria and Johnson Jr. with a single up the middle. Two more runs would come home in the sixth inning to give Rutgers a 10-3 lead.

The Knights and UConn each added on three more runs from there, and Rutgers wound up earning the seven-run victory.

Sophomore right-handed pitcher Christian Coppola earned his fourth win of the season, firing 5.2 innings of three-run ball. He struck out six Huskies and allowed five hits and two walks.

Johnson Jr. got on base in all six of his plate appearances with two hits and four walks, as well as three runs batted in (RBI). Natili impressed with three hits and three RBI of his own along with his first collegiate home run.

Game 3: Rutgers loses 5-1

The Knights' bats went cold in Sunday's affair with UConn.

The Huskies scored an early run in the first inning and retained their 1-0 lead until the eighth inning, as Rutgers could not get anything going at the dish. UConn's one-run lead was extended courtesy of a three-run eighth inning that was kickstarted by a solo blast from Padilla.

The Knights were silenced by Stephen Quigley, who, like Sinibaldi two games before, stayed on the mound for all nine innings in a complete game of his own. Quigley only allowed five hits and one run with four strikeouts while throwing 95 pitches in an efficient afternoon.

While Sunday's game was not Rutgers' best work, its overall play still clinched another series victory and increased its record to 17-7. The Knights will be back on the diamond when they take on NJIT in a home game at 3 p.m. on Tuesday. The game will be broadcast on Big Ten Plus as well as 88.7 WRSU-FM.

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

To view more of Josh Meyers' work, follow @JoshCMeyers on X.

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