September 26, 2018 | ° F

Knights work on defense after three-error inning

The Rutgers baseball team suffered its worst inning of the season in the eighth Saturday against St. John’s by allowing seven runs, committing three errors, giving up a run on a passed ball and using three pitchers.

On the same day, West Virginia had it worse.

The Mountaineers allowed 17 runs in the fifth inning of a 26-11 loss to Villanova. West Virginia was responsible for three errors, three wild pitches, a balk and a passed ball in the inning, while only allowing six hits despite the high run total.

That does not concern head coach Fred Hill. He cares more about what the Scarlet Knights can do at Bainton Field.

“I’m only disappointed that we did what we did,” he said. “We haven’t done that, and we generally don’t do that. I think that’s gone now. We’re pretty resilient, and I think we’re bouncing back.”

The Knights (16-15, 4-5) recovered from the series finale with their most lopsided win of the season Tuesday, a 15-4 victory against Fordham.

After committing six errors against St. John’s, the Knights ended with only one against the Rams.

The error occurred on the first play of the game, a misplayed grounder from junior first baseman Bill Hoermann.

But Rutgers did not want a repeat of the St. John’s loss. With three errors of his own in the past two games, Hoermann was determined to put those mistakes behind him.

“Nine out of 10 times, I’ll make that play,” he said. “It took a hop, and I didn’t get it. I went through the rest of the game, and the ball was hit to me. Once that happens, you’ll make the plays.”

The defensive side is even more important because the Knights’ weekend rotation has pitched to contact as of late.

Junior righthander Tyler Gebler, who starts today, has a .333 opposing batting average. Junior righthander Rob Smorol did not strike out anyone in last Friday’s win against St. John’s. And senior righthander Ryan Fasano allowed 10 hits in five innings Saturday before the disastrous eighth inning.

The runs Rutgers allows partially depend on exactly where the Mountaineers hit the ball.

“If you put the ball in play, you make the other team play defense. Anything can happen then,” Hoermann said. “Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way on certain days.”

Despite the Mountaineers’ (14-20, 3-6) spotty defensive inning against Villanova, they do not commit many errors. Their total of 36 ties for the second lowest in the Big East.

The Knights are more likely to exploit West Virginia’s pitching. The Mountaineers’ 6.73 ERA is the worst in the Big East —1.66 more than Georgetown, the second worst.

The Rutgers offense enters the series with momentum after scoring 25 runs in the past two games. Hill emphasized to the team that it needed to get hits at the right times.

“We’ve been doing some good work in situational hitting and moving runners,” Hill said.

Junior third baseman Pat Kivlehan, who leads Rutgers with five RBI in the past two games, is among those hitting well with runners in scoring position.

In his rookie season, Kivlehan faces each opponent for the first time. West Virginia’s unfamiliarity could be to his favor.

“It might be an advantage that they don’t know me,” Kivlehan said. “Honestly, I don’t know anything about them.”

Kivlehan and the other rookies are the only Knights who have not faced West Virginia, but the rest of Rutgers still plays the series with a blank slate. The struggling rotation and the 17-run inning do not matter to them.

“I don’t care what West Virginia [did],” Hill said.

By Josh Bakan

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