PISCATAWAY, NJ- On Monday, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights baseball team were preparing for a six-game homestand when they got some exciting news.
The Scarlet Knights, who pushed their winning streak to double digits on Sunday against Nebraska, were nationally ranked in a major media outlet for the first time since 2010. On Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's rankings, Rutgers was named the 22nd best team in the country.
With their breakout efforts being recognized, the team knew that appearances needed to be kept in their homestand, starting with Tuesday's game at Bainton Field.
The Lafayette Leopards were not a good team. Not only were they entering the game with a poor record at 11-23, but they had a team ERA over eight, were being outscored by nearly 150 runs, and had given up 20 runs or more three separate times. Meanwhile, the Scarlet Knights had scored 20+ runs twice this season and were coming off a 19-run explosion against the Cornhuskers.
Ultimately, Rutgers scored a season-high 23 runs in a game that saw them score in all but one inning (outside of the ninth inning). The offensive numbers were video game-like. Five different players- those being first baseman Chris Brito, right fielder Richie Schiekofer, third baseman Tony Santa Maria, shortstop Danny DiGeorgio, and first base replacement Jordan Sweeney- had three RBIs or more, with Brito leading the way with five. Santa Maria scored four runs, while designated hitter Nick Cimillo and catcher Jason Shockley scored three each.
The main reason for this lopsided affair was not hits, though. Rather, it was free passes; in a combination of the lineup's excellent plate discipline and Lafayette's immense struggle to find the strike zone, Rutgers drew an unfathomable 17 walks- in addition to three hit-by-pitches for a jaw-dropping 20 free passes. The team had one more walk than they had hits (16).
"We didn't swing at balls and they threw a lot of balls today," manager Steve Owens said of the win. "We got some hits when we needed them."
Coincidentally, this lopsided affair had the same starting pitcher as Rutgers' blowout wins over Wagner and Saint Peter's: freshman Wyatt Parliament. And just like those two games where he toed the rubber, he allowed a run in the top of the first inning before his teammates relentlessly circled the bases and gave him plenty of room for error.
In this case, Lafayette struck first via the gopher ball. Left fielder Kaleb Willis, the second batter of the game, hit a big fly to left-center field for his first collegiate home run. But Parliament settled down and pitched five strong innings with three strikeouts to get the win. His only other blemish was a fifth inning home run to second baseman Kyle Chmielewski; the other two hits Parliament allowed were singles.
Even with the homer in the top of the first, the Scarlet Knights' lineup wasn't fazed. Lafayette starter Kyle Subers was having a miserable season, as he had a 1-6 record with an ERA over 10 and a WHIP over 2 in nearly 30 innings pitched. As soon as he took the hill, the batters were licking their chops.
Center fielder Ryan Lasko led off the bottom of the first with a walk. After Subers retired the next two batters, he walked Santa Maria and DiGeorgio to load the bases, bringing up the white-hot bat of Brito. The first baseman, who was coming off a two-homer, six-RBI game against Nebraska, hit a grand slam to straightaway center field.
From that point the Scarlet Knights' lineup was completely locked in, as they continued to score runs throughout the afternoon. With two outs in the second inning, Lasko singled and left fielder Evan Sleight walked, ending Subers' day. Reliever Joe Skapinetz wouldn't fare any better, as he plunked both Cimillo and Santa Maria, the latter forcing home a run. DiGeorgio followed with a two-run single before walks to Brito and Schiekofer forced in another.
In the third inning, Shockley greeted new pitcher Joe Pence with a single. After two outs, Cimillo singled before Pence walked the next three batters, with runs scoring on DiGeorgio and Brito's walks. With the bases still loaded, Schiekofer cleared them with a double. That was only the Scarlet Knights' sixth hit of the game, yet they led by twice as many runs, at 13-1.
By now, it was very clear that the game was over, but there were still six more innings to play. As such, Rutgers continued to increase their lead in four of them.
Chase Barley took the mound in the fourth and wouldn't allow a hit, but wouldn't get an out either. Shockley and Lasko drew back-to-back walks before Sleight was hit by a pitch to load the bases; both Lasko and Sleight were replaced by pinch runners. After Cimillo walked to force home another run, Jack McMullen replaced Barley and allowed a sacrifice fly to Santa Maria. Rutgers had scored two runs in the inning without even getting a hit, and now led 15-1.
After Chmielewski's homer made it 15-2 in the top of the fifth, Rutgers got that run back in the bottom half. Second baseman Josh Kuroda-Grauer hit an infield single, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and scored on Garrett Callaghan's two-out RBI single, although Callaghan was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.
In the sixth, the Scarlet Knights passed the 20-run mark with a six-run inning. New pitcher Adam Bogosian allowed a one-out single to Santa Maria; after getting the second out, Jordan Sweeney, who replaced Brito, hit a two-run home run to make it 18-2. Schiekofer followed with an infield single before Kuroda-Grauer and Shockley walked to load the bases. Singles by Mike Nyisztor and Callaghan scored a run each, before Cimillo walked to force home yet another run. Alex Walsh replaced Bogosian and walked Santa Maria for another run before finally getting the third out.
Sweeney concluded Rutgers' scoring with a home run off Walsh in the bottom of the seventh inning. Meanwhile, relief pitchers Jared Bellissimo, Jayson Hoopes, and Matt Rowe continued to stymie the Leopards, allowing only a meaningless RBI single to Carter Dorighi in the eighth inning.
What Does This Mean for Rutgers?
This game meant nothing to the Scarlet Knights outside of padding stats and extending their impressive winning streak to 11 games. If anything, winning this game in such a lopsided fashion was mandatory for Rutgers to make their national ranking look legitimate.
For the lack of a better description, this game was nine-inning batting practice that also allowed some of Rutgers' rested pitchers to shake off some rust.
Next Up for Rutgers
The Scarlet Knights play again on Wednesday against the Penn Quakers, who currently have the best total record in the Ivy League. First pitch is at Bainton Field at 3:00 PM.