Knights begin Big East play at Seton Hall
When it comes to hitting, base running, pitching and defense, the Rutgers baseball team peaked at the right time in out-of-conference play, according to head coach Fred Hill.
Now the Scarlet Knights want to carry that over into the Big East.
The Knights (9-9) enter a series with Seton Hall today for their first three games against a Big East opponent.
The Pirates’ 9-10 record is on par with that of the Knights, but Seton Hall lacks Rutgers’ experience against ranked opponents.
Still, Hill said the opponent does not matter. He is only impressed with his team’s play.
“It doesn’t make any difference. You have to play them sooner or later,” Hill said. “We’ve played enough games right now to be doing things correctly. The kids have cleaned up a lot.”
The Knights rotation was successful during that time, and it was not even at full strength. Now it is, because of junior righthander Tyler Gebler.
Gebler missed some series and came out of the bullpen for others because of arm tightness. But the Knights saw the Gebler of last year on March 14, when he pitched seven shutout innings in a 7-2 win against Florida Gulf Coast.
Now that Gebler fills a healthy rotation, the Knights want to maintain the flashes of dominance they displayed in the South.
“If our pitchers do the job and we don’t walk guys and give them extra outs,” Hill said, “we’re going to be in a lot of ball games.”
The Knights have reduced their walk totals in the past two games. But in that time, only two pitchers stepped on the mound.
Senior righty Ryan Fasano and junior lefty Rob Corsi did not walk anyone in their shutouts Wednesday and Sunday, respectively.
Only Corsi will start this series when he pitches the final game Saturday, but the 5-0 win Wednesday for Fasano also serves the Knights’ momentum.
“Every midweek game is very important because it’s going to determine if you’re confident over the weekend of if you’re a little down on the loss,” Fasano said. “By getting the win … we’re going to be very confident this weekend.”
The Rutgers lineup carries the same confidence after its performance in the past two games.
Rutgers recorded only six hits against Rider, but sophomore second baseman Nick Favatella and senior third baseman Pat Kivlehan each hit a home run.
Kivlehan’s home run brought in three, and his sudden surge gives the Knights a bigger presence in the cleanup spot.
“He’s swinging the bat much better,” Hill said. “He has a much better reaction to pitchers and staying in the strike zone. Earlier he was swinging at a lot of bad pitches.”
The Knights recorded 17 hits against No. 14 Stetson on Sunday in a 7-0 win. But that production will be tough to replicate against Seton Hall’s rotation.
The Pirates pitching staff sports three pitchers with ERAs at 4.03 or lower. The best comes from a new face — freshman Jose Lopez.
Lopez, who has a 1.42 ERA, starts against Corsi. His last start was a seven-inning win March 11 against Akron in which he allowed one run, struck out six and walked one.
The Pirates’ pitching will likely make each win difficult for Rutgers — Seton Hall’s team ERA is 3.49 — but with each loss, Hill said recovering is the top priority.
“That’s the biggest thing,” Hill said. “When you don’t win a game and you don’t let it get to you, [you] keep coming back and keep working at it.”