By Adam Nardelli
Piscataway, NJ —
Rutgers hosted the Iona Gaels on Wednesday, with both teams coming into the matchup under .500. The 4-6 Scarlet Knights entered the game off a 5-2 win over Old Dominion on Sunday.
The 1st inning was relatively quiet, with Rutgers starting pitcher Dante Scafidi getting three outs on three batters. Iona’s Fran Kinsey and Sean Breen both grounded out, with Vinny DeMaria hitting a pop fly to Centerfield where Jawaun Harris made a nice running catch.
The bottom of the 1st was much of the same. Starting Iona pitcher Andrew Pucillo allowed a single to RJ Devish and a walk to Chris Suseck, but quickly got three outs and maneuvered his way out of the small jam.
Scafidi’s 2nd inning didn’t start out quite as smooth, with Iona’s Travis Mistretta and Lou Matarazzi each singling to left field. Scafidi then threw Mistretta out at third after Carmine Palummo hit a grounder directly at the mound for the first out of the inning. A pop fly by Matt Flannery gave Scafidi his second out of the 2nd, followed by the Gaels’ Clay Felice hitting a small blooper to 3rd base where Carmen Sclafini made a tough throw to 1st basemen Chris Suseck to end the inning.
Gaby Rosa got things started off on a high note for the Scarlet Knights in the bottom of the 2nd with a double to the gap in right-center. Luke Bowerbank hit Rosa home with a single to right field to put Rutgers on the board 1-0.
That would be all the scoring Rutgers would do in the bottom of the 2nd, bringing Scafidi in for another inning of work in the top of the 3rd.
Fran Kinsey hit a grounder to 1st basemen Chris Suseck, and instead of getting the easy out at 1st, Suseck gunned out Iona’s Joe DeMaio at 3rd. DeMaio had walked in the beginning of the inning and made it to second on a steal.
While Suseck was making plays in the field, Scafidi’s command was clearly a bit off after he walked both Vinny DeMaria and Sean Breen. With the bases loaded as a result of the two walks and Kinsey reaching 1s safely on the grounder, Chris Suseck and the rest of the Rutgers defense came to Scafidi’s assistance.
Iona’s Travis Mistretta hit a grounder to Suseck, who threw out Frank Kinsey at home. Catcher RJ Devish then immediately threw to third, where 3rd basemen Carmen Sclafini tagged Vinny DeMaria for the double play to end the inning.
Suseck led off the bottom of the 3rd, and he quickly put the Scarlet Knights in a good positon. Suseck hit a deep fly ball that fell into the gap in left-center field, which allowed him to reach third on a triple. Andrew Pucillo’s troubles at the mound continued with a walk to Tom Marcinczyk and a double to Nick Matera. Matera brought both Suseck and Marcinczyk home to increase the lead to 3-0.
Carmen Sclafani didn’t let up when he hit a double to left field bringing Matera home to put the lead at 4-0.
With the Gaels in a 4-run hole, the Iona coaching staff pulled Andrew Pucillo and brought in relief pitcher Joe DeRosa. DeRosa allowed one more run to come in for the Scarlet Knights, giving the Scarlet Knights a 5-run advantage going into the 4th.
Although Dante Scafidi had pitched three scoreless innings, his day was over by the top of the 4th. Freshman Serafino Brito pitched in relief, and made it out of the inning without much trouble, keeping the score at 5-0.
DeRosa also pitched through the bottom of the 4th problem-less, moving past the halfway point of the ball game.
The top of the 5th began a bit rocky for Brito. After a couple Gaels were able to get on base, Travis Mistretta hit a single up the middle to center field, which brought Fran Kinsey home.
The scoring didn’t stop for the Gaels when Junior Lou Matarazzo hit a high fly ball that sailed over the left field fences for a three run home run. All of a sudden Iona had cut the lead to just one at 5-4.
In the bottom of the 5th Luke Bowerbank hit an RBI single to shallow right field, carrying John Jennings across home plate to augment the Scarlet Knghts’ lead to two runs at 6-4.
The inning ended oddly with an out at home. Jawaun Harris tried to steal home on a wild Joe DeRosa pitch, but was tagged out at the plate, preserving the score at 6-4.
The top of the 6th saw another pitching change for Rutgers, with Redshirt Junior Kevin Baxter taking the mound. Things didn’t start off as planned for Baxter, giving up an RBI single cutting the lead to 6-5. Later in the inning, an ill-advised throw by Sclafini from third to first allowed another run to cross home plate, tying the game up at 6.
Joe DeRosa’s wild pitch in the 5th luckily ended up as an out for the Gaels, but it was a different story in the bottom of the 6th. Jawaun Harris was able to score on the misguided throw, providing the Scarlet Knights with a valuable run as the sun started to set on Bainton Field.
Moving to the bottom of the 7th, the Scarlet Knights were able to put some men on base against relief pitch Kyle Ackley. John Jennings scored from third on a small Luke Bowerbank grounder. Clay Felice threw to catcher Carmine Palummo from third, but Palumno couldn’t hang on to the ball and Jennings slide into home plate to make the score 8-6.
The bottom of the 7th continued to be profitable for the Knights. Freshman Jawaun Harris hit his first career home run (two-run home run) and Tom Marcinczyk hit an RBI single. Once a close game, Rutgers was now enjoying a comfortable 11-6 advantage.
More scoring in the 7th came when John Jennings was hit by a pitch with the bases load, getting Rutgers to their 12th run of the day and doubling up the Gaels. Iona then walked Milo Freeman bringing yet another Scarlet Knight home for the 13th run.
Iona put two runs on the board in the top of the 8th,, but it was too little too late for the Iona Gaels. The Scarlet Knights came away with the victory by a score of 13-8, improving to a record of 5-6 in this young season.
Relief pitcher Kevin Baxter applauded an overall quality effort by his team. “I think we did pretty well on defense today. We took care of the baseball. We made some pretty good plays throwing the ball across the diamond. Chris Suseck made some great plays”. Baxter didn’t forget the offensive performance either, of course noting how much of a help the 13 runs were in getting the win.
Up next for the Scarlet Knights is their spring break tour that begins at Florida Atlantic on Friday. Rutgers’ next home game is March 29th vs Monmouth at 3pm. Make sure to tune in to WRSU 88.7-FM for the call.