By Trevor Gomes

Rutgers starting pitcher Justin Sinibaldi entered Friday’s game with a top five ERA in the Big Ten and twirled five smooth innings — then came the sixth.

A walk, bunt, wild pitch, two-run double and an injury to Sinibaldi put the Scarlet Knights in a precarious position.

The offensive burst in the sixth proved crucial for the Terps, who scored all of their runs in the frame to defeat Rutgers, 4-3, in game one of the weekend series in Piscataway.

“We were able to build that one big inning for the offense and cash in right there,” coach Matt Swope said. “Sometimes that’s what a Friday night game is supposed to look like.”

The two programs have stood among the top of the Big Ten in recent years and expectedly went back and forth to the end — but both teams entered the night with underwhelming conference records.

Maryland (30-17, 9-10 Big Ten) moved to seventh in the Big Ten standings and Rutgers (25-20, 3-13 Big Ten) sits at 12th in the conference, shy of a spot in the Big Ten tournament. The Terps moved into the field with the win and are in the final month of regular season play.

[Kenny Lippman has found success in his move to Maryland baseball’s bullpen]

Omar Melendez got his first Friday start of the year after recently moving from the bullpen into the starting rotation.

“It’s for the team,” Melendez said. “Whatever the team needs me to do … I’m gonna do my best to help them.”

Though he had command issues at times, Melendez often drew weak contact and caught batters swinging early, leading to only three runs in 6 2/3 innings.

Rutgers’ Josh Kuroda-Grauer, who sports a .439 batting average and leads the nation in hits, smacked his first of three singles in the first inning. He then stole second and advanced to third on an errant throw by catcher Devin Russell. Ty Doucette drove him in with an RBI single to left field off a hanging curveball from Melendez.

Rutgers’ fielding was on full display Friday. The left side of the infield particularly saw many opportunities in the early innings and produced several impressive plays.

The Scarlet Knights’ stout defense and Sinibaldi had Maryland’s bats shut down through five innings, with Rutgers’ first-inning score being the only of the game.

[Maryland baseball snaps four-weekend losing streak with 11-7 win over Illinois]

Sinibaldi’s dominance ended in the sixth, though, when Maryland put runners on second and third. Eddie Hacopian capitalized, smoking a ball down the left field line to drive in two runs. Sinibaldi suffered an apparent arm injury in the process and left the game.

Ben Gorski replaced Sinibaldi and got off to a rough start. Chris Hacopian singled and Gorski threw a wild pitch to place men on second and third once again. A Sam Hojnar groundout brought Eddie Hacopian home and Jacob Orr’s sac fly knocked in Chris Hacopian, capping off the big frame.

Melendez continued his strong outing in the bottom of the sixth, putting Rutgers down in order. He retired the first two batters in the seventh as well, though his pitch count crept higher and higher. Melendez surrendered back-to-back hits and Doucette tallied his second and third RBIs of the game to make it 4-3 following consecutive steals.

Melendez reached a season-high 106 pitches before Kenny Lippman replaced him. Lippman’s had recent success in the bullpen following his move from the starting rotation.

He continued his resurgence by closing out the game with three strikeouts and only one baserunner allowed in 2 1/3 innings pitched.

The Terps extended their winning streak to four and eye a spot in the Big Ten tournament.