Scarlet Knights close out season with 10-7 victory over Northwestern
Capping a senior year to remember, R.J. Devish (Beachwood, N.J.) stroked a two-out, two-run double to break a tie in the bottom of the eighth inning to lead Rutgers baseball to a 10-7 victory over Northwestern Saturday at Bainton Field. The Scarlet Knights won their eighth consecutive home finale dating back to 2009.
Fifth-year senior John Jennings (Berkeley Heights, N.J.) followed Devish with an RBI hit of his own and fellow fifth-year player Chris Suseck (Flemington, N.J.) roped a hit after that to finish the day 4-for-4. Entering then from the bullpen, senior Reed Shuttle (Lansdale, Pa.) struck out the side in the ninth to earn the save. Senior Kevin Baxter (Waterford, N.J.) made the start on the mound and went two innings. Along with ace pitcher Howie Brey (Middletown, N.J.), the program held a pregame ceremony to honor its six seniors, who would go on to make an impact in the win.
In a 7-7 game, RU rallied for three runs in the eighth to take the lead. Freshman Luke Bowerbank (Bernardsville, N.J.) ignited the situation by reaching on a one-out throwing error, with sophomore Milo Freeman (Millburn, N.J.) drawing a walk to put two on. That brought up junior Gaby Rosa (Perth Amboy, N.J.), who reached on a fielder’s choice to put runners at the corners with two down, but he stole second. Devish worked the count to full before drilling a line drive to the right field corner to chase home the go-ahead runs. Jennings came up next and lined an RBI single in his final collegiate at bat.
Shuttle then took the ball in the ninth and mowed down the side with two called strikeouts and a swinging strike three for his fourth save of the season. Junior Ryan Fleming (Churchville, Pa.) picked up the win by pitching a career-high-tying six innings of relief, allowing just two hits and no earned runs. The left-hander fanned five in the outing. Baxter, who finished his career with 11 wins, made his third start of the year.
Offensively, Suseck finished his time as a Scarlet Knight with his second four-hit game of the season. It happened despite been struck by an errant throw in the face that drew blood and forced him to change uniforms during an on-field delay. Devish went 2-for-4 with two runs, two RBIs and a walk to raise his on-base percentage to .524, the highest mark by a Rutgers player since 1994 and it being only the fourth time since 1984 a RU player finished over .500. The leadoff hitter also led the Big Ten with 56 runs scored. Additionally contributing to the win, junior Mike Carter (Bloomfield, N.J.) collected two hits to end the season with a .367 batting average.
Freshman Jawuan Harris (Pembroke Pines, Fla.) added two RBIs and swiped his 37th base of the season, third-most in a year in program history. Rosa and Suseck also took base to raise the school-record total to 121, the most by a Big Ten team since Iowa had 138 in 2008.
Jumping out early, Northwestern (15-39, 7-17) plated three runs on four hits in the first, but Rutgers responded with four scores right away. Devish led off with a double and advanced on a fly ball hit by Jennings. Suseck started his eventful day with an RBI single. Next up, junior Tom Marcinczyk (Middlesex, N.J.) walked and Harris singled through the right side for an RBI. Quickly stealing second to put two in scoring position, Carter knocked home Marcinczyk with the fourth hit of the rally and Bowerbank lifted a sacrifice fly to make it 4-3 in favor of the hosts.
NU answered that with three runs in the second to go up 6-4. The visitors would then add an unearned run in the fourth take a three-run advantage. However, Fleming and Shuttle permitted just two to reach from that point to allow RU a chance to come back.
The charge started in the fourth when Carter doubled, advanced on a Bowerbank grounder and ran home on a run-scoring fly ball by Freeman. Then in the fifth, Suseck beat out an infield single and Marcinczyk walked, as ball four went wild to allow the runners to go to second and third. Another wild pitch permitted Suseck to come in and Harris tied it up with the third sacrifice fly of the game.
Fleming settled in during the middle innings to tame the Wildcats’ bats, including inducing a double play ball in the seventh. The Scarlet Knights were then setup in the eighth after an error and took the lead there with a trifecta of runs.
Pete Hofman (1-6) suffered the loss in relief for Northwestern with three unearned runs against his ledger. The team collected nine hits, but only two after the second inning.
Rutgers concludes its 2016 season with a 27-28 record overall, 16-6 at Bainton Field and 9-15 in the Big Ten. The nine conference wins mark an improvement of plus two in the program’s second season in the league.
Rutgers has now played a series against every team in the Big Ten … the Scarlet Knights played 24 home games this season, the most since Bainton Field opened in 2007 … the 10 runs scored matched Friday’s totaled as the most plated in a Big Ten game this year … the offense reached double-digit hits 22 times and scored 10 or more runs on 11 occasions … Harris ends the season on a 20-game on-base streak … Devish had his team-leading 20th multiple-hit game of the season to finish with a team-high .375 batting average … the pitchers totaled 10 saves on the year, tied for the ninth-most in a season in program history … the staff collected 369 strikeouts for the third-highest total in the school record books … the game lasted two hours, 35 minutes.