The Rutgers baseball team suffered a setback as it was swept in the three-game series by Big East rival Pittsburgh at Charles L. Cost Field in Pittsburgh.
The Scarlet Knights (14-22, 6-9) were shut out in both games of a double header Thursday, April 21, 4-0 and 3-0, before losing the series finale Saturday, April 23, 8-3.
The series was adjusted with rain in the forecast for Friday, April 22. The impromptu Thursday doubleheader was not kind to the Knights who didn’t put up a run the entire day.
In the opening game of the series, Rutgers starting pitcher Tyler Gebler was solid with three strikeouts in six innings, but gave up a pair of two-run innings to the Panthers.
An RBI single by Pitt center fielder Zach Duggan compounded with a Rutgers error pushed two runs across in the second inning. Then later in the sixth, another Duggan single found turf as Pittsburgh pushed two more runs across.
The Knights only had five hits in the game, with the majority coming from the bottom portion of their lineup. Gebler’s record fell to 2-4 on the season as Pitt starter Matt Iannazzo was awarded the win with a complete game shutout.
The second game of the day was not much better for the Knights as their bats remained dormant. Starter Rob Smorol struck out three and pitched a complete game, but once again the offense offered no run support.
Pittsburgh got on the board in the third inning with another RBI by Duggan, this time on a sacrifice groundout. The Panthers extended the lead to three runs with an RBI single in the seventh from right fielder Casey Roche and a double in the eighth from left fielder John Schultz.
The Panthers starter Corey Baker improved to 4-1 on the season after allowing just four hits in seven innings and striking out five. Smorol fell to 3-5 for the year despite the solid performance.
Senior right fielder Michael Lang and junior first baseman Russ Hopkins were the only Knights to register hits in both games of the doubleheader.
The Knights actually showed signs of life in the series finale, with much of it coming from Lang. He was a homerun shy of hitting for the cycle with a triple, double, and single. Lang was walked and hit by a pinch in his other two at-bats and reached base safely in all five of his plate appearances.
Pittsburgh struck first in the second inning as Roche hit a single with the bases loaded off of Rutgers starter Nathaniel Roe to bring home the first two runs of the contest.
The Panthers added three more runs in the third inning highlighted by a two run single from shortstop Derik Wilson. They followed up with runs in the fourth and fifth innings to pile on a 7-0 lead after five frames.
The Knights battled back in the sixth with a sacrifice fly from Hopkins to score Lang from third base and an RBI single from freshman Nick Favatella.
They also loaded the bases in the eighth and Pittsburgh reliever Alex Caravella walked pinch hitter Brandon Boykin before getting out of trouble with a strikeout and double play.
Pittsburgh would tack on one more run in the bottom of the eighth with back to back doubles from Schultz and catcher Kevan Smith. The Knights put up a fight in the top of the ninth, but was not enough to drive a run across and overcome the 8-3 deficit.
Rutgers has now lost four games in a row dating back to a home loss against Cincinnati on April 17. The Knights will look to halt the losing skid on Tuesday, April 26 when they travel to Newark, Del. to face the Blue Hens of Delaware before a weekend home series with Connecticut.