OMAHA, Nebr. (27 May 2022) – The Rutgers baseball team heads to Saturday’s semifinals in the Big Ten Tournament. After rallying in the top 10 to beat Penn State 5-4, the Scarlet Knights are now waiting to see who their opponents will be at 10 pm EST.
Rutgers took a 4-0 lead going into the bottom nine on the heels of a career outing by Nate Florence, but Penn State rallied when Florence came out with the first runner and scored 4 runs to stun the Scarlet Knights and send the game to an extra round. But Rutgers regrouped and responded with a run in the 10th before Sam Bello off PSU’s 1-2-3 hitters in the bottom 10 to close out the victory.
“We put the team together and said‘ there’s going to be a win, ’” the head coach said Steve Owens said. “We have to keep playing in the end. Our guys have been really good all year. This is what a good team does. They keep the bad things going and control what they can control. Super job with that.”
It takes a great outing from the start Nathan Florence, The Scarlet Knights got just that, as he posted his best outing in a Rutgers uniform. For the first time at Rutgers, Florence scored in the seventh inning. But he also came in at number eight. And the ninth.
After giving up one leadoff in the first, Florence will retire the next 14 Nittany Lions. to cruise through 4.2 rounds without a score. PSU got one and ran with two out in the fifth, but Florence caught a foul pop to end the frame.
He stuck out in the sixth, working around a single-out infield single with an inning-late double play. He set up the Nittany Lions on six pitches in the seventh and then again in the eighth.
He finished the day with 8+ IPs, 3 hits, 1 run, two runs and 10 strikeouts, which tied Rutgers — best for him.
“He was really good today. He threw a lot of attacks. He had a good change in the beginning, had a good ball in the middle and a lot of fastball,” Owens said. “He stayed out there in the ninth inning and we haven’t been through five or six years at all. I let him go because he continues to do his job and do well. We needed that long today and it was amazing.”
And while Florence became dominant, so did Penn State starter Jordan Morales. He threw 4.2 innings without a score, beating five Scarlet Knights.
RU can beat PSU reliever Jaden Henline, who is usually a starter. In the top six, he hit Ryan Lasko with pitch to lead off the frame. Lasko will go to second in the wild pitch and advance to third in the sacrificial bunt of Danny DiGeorgio. With the infield on, Nick Cimillo ripped the ground ball through the middle and hustled for a second for a double RBI.
In the next frame, Josh Kuroda-Grauer double the third base line, set Richie Schiekoferwho ripped a single RBI into the right field to make it 2-0.
Basically loaded in eight, Chris Brito singled home 2 more runs to make it 4-0.
But Penn State isn’t going down easily, as they ride the momentum from a leadoff mate in the bottom nine. The Nittany Lions loaded the base with one out in the double and another running. Rutgers followed the race out on an RBI groundout to second base to make it 4-1 with two outs and runners in the second and third. Billy Gerlott fired a good shot on the left to make it run before Johnny Piacentino fired an extra game-based kick into the left-center gap.
Sam Bello signed with a game-winning run in the third and struck out a pinch hitter to send the game to an extra round.
Chris Brito was hit by the first pitch at 10. and became third at one over right by Josh Kuroda-Grauer. Richie Schiekofer then hit a fly ball through the wind deep enough to score Brito from the third and give Rutgers a 5-4 lead.
Bello came out of the bottom 10 to face the top of the Penn State lineup and dealt a 1-2-3 frame, placed by a strikeout looking to end the game.
Rutgers will now wait until tomorrow evening to see who will play in the next game, which is set for Saturday at approximately 10 pm EST. The winner of the Illinois-Indiana game will now face the loser in tonight’s Maryland-Michigan game. The match will take place at 2 pm Saturday and Rutgers will face the winner on the night. Rutgers will then have two chances to win one game against an opponent. With the win, the Scarlet Knights will advance to the championship game.