’Canes sweep Rutgers in competitive series
Rutgers head baseball coach Fred Hill was ambitious in wanting the Scarlet Knights to win the Big East. The Knights received a test immediately against No. 13 Miami to open the season.
A three-game Hurricanes sweep showed the Knights are still a work in progress.
A 9-7 Rutgers loss Sunday clinched the Miami sweep at Alex Rodriguez Park, but it was also the first solid showing for the Knights offense. Rutgers outhit Miami, 12-11.
Hill was encouraged by certain parts of the order, but he said others need improvement.
“We have three and four in the order,” Hill said. “We probably need to find somebody in the five hole who’s a little more consistent than what we have. And the bottom of the order needs some work.”
Sophomore second baseman Nick Favatella reached base three times on one hit and two walks, and batted in two runs. After his best game in the short season, Favatella felt more comfortable with his role as the No. 3 hitter.
“It didn’t feel much different,” he said. “After the last game, it won’t take much to get comfortable again.”
Junior starting pitcher Rob Corsi is another player with a new role. The lefthander made his first collegiate start Sunday after transitioning from his reliever duties.
Like many of Rutgers’ players throughout the weekend, Corsi hit rough patches. The Oceanport, N.J., native finished his outing with seven earned runs in 3 2/3 innings.
“He was throwing from 86-89 [aMPH], got his curveball over a couple times,” Hill said. “He just didn’t locate as well as he should have.”
The Knights nearly knocked off the Hurricanes a first time in Saturday’s 12-inning 4-1 loss.
Rutgers’ pitching staff is its most experienced corps, and it played like it.
The experience showed from start to finish, when junior lefthander Dan O’Neill bolstered the Knights with 3 2/3 innings out of the bullpen.
“He’s resilient,” Hill said. “He can pitch back-to-back days. He has a good fastball, he has a good changeup. It makes him a very good candidate for [long relief].”
O’Neill allowed only two Miami hits and struck out four through three innings.
But then the Hurricanes came through in the clutch, especially cleanup hitter Rony Rodriguez.
The senior left fielder stepped up to the plate with runners on first and second and cleared them both with a walk-off home run.
Rodriguez’s hit was not an anomaly. Miami produced more hits throughout the day, leading, 10-4, in the category.
But the Knights showed an ability to keep up with Miami, unlike Friday’s season opener.
Rutgers played catch-up after receiving only four innings from junior lefthander Rob Smorol.
He allowed two runs, but he was not the only perpetrator in Rutgers’ 6-2 loss. Rodriguez gave the Hurricanes a 5-0 advantage after he reached base on an error in the fifth inning.
But Hill already feels like the Knights (0-3) are a long way from the losses to Miami (3-0) in terms of both pitching and hitting.
“We’re encouraged,” he said. “The second game we got beat in 12 innings, and the third game goes either way.”
The encouragement was enough to give Hill and the Knights faith in winning the Big East.