Scarlet Knights drop series finale on the road
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – In a game at No. 3 Illinois that featured 39 hits and 11 home runs, Rutgers baseball fell on the short side of a 28-13 contest Sunday at Illinois Field. The six home runs by the Scarlet Knights were the most since blasting seven at Notre Dame on April 10, 2010.
The ballgame wrapped up the third road series this season for the Scarlet Knights at a ranked opponent. The 13 runs scored by Rutgers were the most scored in a game against the Fighting Illini this season, who entered the weekend with the fourth-best ERA in the nation at 2.31.
Sophomore Tom Marcinczyk (Middlesex, N.J.) led the offensive barrage for Rutgers with two home runs, two walks, three runs and four RBIs. He became the first Scarlet Knight to go deep twice in a game since Charlie Law did that at Hofstra on April 30, 2013. Marcinczyk now has a team-best seven long balls on the season, the most for a RU player since Patrick Kivlehan connected for 14 in 2012.
Senior Joe D’Annunzio (Scotch Plains, N.J.) collected eight total bases on a home run, a triple and a single from the second spot in the order. He now has nine triples this season, most in the Big Ten, which is the second-highest total in a Rutgers season. His 16 career three-baggers are in third place in the school record books and just two off the all-time leader. D’Annunzio’s long ball on Sunday was his four of the year.
The Scarlet Knights also had production from junior Chris Suseck (Flemington, N.J.), who went 3-for-5 with his third homer of the season. He hit 7-for-9 in the final two games of the series. Junior John Jennings (Berkeley Heights, N.J.) and sophomore Chris Folinusz (Cranford, N.J.) both clubbed their first career home runs to bring the team total to six. Worth noting, sophomore Christian Campbell (Sayreville, N.J.) drew four walks, the most in a game for RU since Tom Edwards did that versus Fordham on April 15, 2008.
However, Illinois (43-6-1, 19-1) countered with 26 hits with five homers to take its 24th consecutive win. Reid Roper led all players with six runs scored and six RBIs on the day. J.D. Nielsen (2-1) earned the win in relief for the hosts.
Rutgers (17-34-1, 5-16) started fast with three runs after the first three batters. Senior Vinny Zarrillo (Forked River, N.J.) led off the game with a single up the middle and D’Annunzio followed with a hit of his own to put two aboard. Next up, Marcinczyk drilled a two-ball offering over the wall in right-center to give RU the early lead.
The Fighting Illini got two runs back in its first at bat on a two-run double by Casey Fletcher. Sophomore Gaby Rosa (Perth Amboy, N.J.) was able to escape with the lead by stranding two in scoring position on a pair of infield pops. Rutgers responded with three of its own in the second. After an out, Zarrillo drew a walk and D’Annunzio slammed a high towering two-run homer to left. Just four pitches later, Marcinczyk crushed a shot over the wall in right to go back-to-back. It was the first time RU had homers on consecutive batters since Jeff Melillo and Kivlehan achieved the feat at Cincinnati on April 28, 2012.
Illinois’ Ryan Nagle hit a three-run long ball to make it 6-5, but RU kept the pressure on with two more in the third. Campbell worked a walk on a full count and two batter later Jennings stepped up and blasted his first career home run. The two-run shot cleared the wall in left-center. Freshman John O’Reilly (Northvale, N.J.) followed with the first scoreless half inning in the third and the Scarlet Knights tacked on another in the fourth. Marcinczyk walked with one down and advanced on a single from Suseck. After an out, freshman Kyle Walker (Piscataway, N.J.) fell behind in the count two strikes, but was able to battle back to lace an RBI single up the middle.
That put the Scarlet Knights up 9-5 after the bottom of the fourth, but Jason Goldstein hit a grand slam to tie it up in the bottom of the inning. The hosts added another in the fifth to take their first lead on a David Kerian solo shot.
The Illinois lead would not last long as D’Annunzio led off with a leadoff triple in the sixth. Marcinczyk then drew a walk to force a pitching change. Suseck greeted the new pitcher with a lined RBI single to left-center to make it 10-10.
However, RU would strand two in scoring position and Illinois would rally to score five in the sixth and two in the seventh to take a seven-run lead that would prove insurmountable. Suseck homered in the eighth and Folinusz hit one off the batter’s eye in the ninth, but Illinois had scored 11 in the eighth to pad its lead.
Senior Jon Young (Old Bridge, N.J.) (2-1) was charged with the loss, as RU used seven pitchers overall.
The Scarlet Knights will next return to the friendly confines of Bainton Field to wrap up the season against Iowa. The three-game series will start Thursday and will be covered by BTN Plus.