June 22, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers bats struggle in Pitt loss

Photo by Cameron Stroud |

Sophomore starting pitcher Tyler Gebler pitched solidly in the Knights' 4-0 loss to host Pittsburgh in Game 1 of the team's three-game series. Gebler allowed two runs in the second inning, but did not give up another hit until the sixth.

Two shutout losses in two games were not exactly what the Rutgers baseball team had in mind. Then again, playing a doubleheader on Thursday to start a series against Pittsburgh was not part of the plan, either.

But head coach Fred Hill did not have any excuses for his team following an 8-3 loss on Saturday, which completed a sweep for Pitt.

For Hill, it was plain and simple: His lineup just did not produce.

"We just didn't hit the ball. We got hits — we just didn't get them at the right time," Hill said. "We had opportunities I would say in all three games and we didn't do it. Their pitchers weren't all that great. You can't take it away from their pitchers, but we didn't do a very good job at all."

In the three contests combined, Rutgers was outscored, 15-3 — the team's biggest margin of defeat in a three-game series since a sweep by East Carolina during Spring Break.

The Knights (14-22, 6-9) entered the series with just a .252 team batting average, as the team long struggled this season to make noise from the plate.

And after a pair of strikeouts to end the series finale gave the Knights 299 strikeouts this season — the most in the Big East — their team batting average dipped down to .247 — the second-lowest average in the conference.

"We couldn't get any hits at the right times," Hill said. "[Sophomore Tyler] Gebler pitched pretty good on Friday, [sophomore Rob] Smorol pitched outstanding in the second game [and] we had some opportunities in both of those games and we couldn't get a key hit at the right time. The same thing happened [Saturday]."

But senior rightfielder Michael Lang, the squad's leading hitter, did his part while the rest of the lineup battled inconsistencies.

The Dumont, N.J., native reached base in all five of his at-bats on Saturday, going 3-for-3 with a single, double, triple, walk and a hit-by-pitch.

For the weekend, Lang hit .555 while the rest of the team hit just .144.

"Their pitchers did a good job hitting their spots and mixing their pitches up," said Lang, who is hitting a team-high .321. "I don't know. They weren't too overpowering where we couldn't get to them, but we didn't really hit the ball too well."

While the Knights' Nos. 1 and 2 combo of Gebler and Smorol pitched well enough to almost earn victories, junior righthander Nathaniel Roe continued to struggle on the mound.

Hill's No. 3 arm walked three batters and allowed 10 hits and six earned runs to lose his third consecutive start, dropping him to 3-6 on the season.

The Panthers (25-13, 11-4) remained second in the conference with the sweep courtesy of 24 hits and 15 runs, as they led each inning of every game in the series.

"It kind of makes you kind of play your best," Gebler said of pitching from behind. "It helps you compete because you know it's going to be a closer game. If we keep them shut down, eventually our offense is going to have a big inning or something like that."

Hill's shifty lineup finally hit a wall over the weekend, and the head coach made it clear that changes loom for his batting order heading into today's matchup with Delaware.

"I'm going to change the order a little bit and try to make sure we get guys up who are going to put the ball in play when we have men on base," he said. "I've got to spend a little time thinking about it."

Anthony Hernandez

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