June 24, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers begins season against ‘Canes

Photo by The Daily Targum |

Senior lefthander Rob Smorol will start in the Knights first game of the season. Smorol went 8-4 in 15 appearances last season for head coach Fred Hill.

Rob Smorol knows all about Miami.

The senior lefthander took the mound last season in the Rutgers baseball team’s season opener against the Hurricanes, going four innings before he handed the ball off to the bullpen.

Though the Scarlet Knights lost that game, 6-4, Smorol is antsy to get another chance at Miami.

After being cooped up indoors because of the weather, his whole team should be ready to begin its season in the Sunshine State.

“We’ve been waiting for what seems like forever to start back up, so it’s finally here, we’re ready to go and everyone is in good spirits,” Smorol said. “I think everyone is just looking forward to being down there and getting it going.”

Smorol will get another opportunity against the Hurricanes as the Knights’ No. 1 starter.

In those four innings last season, Smorol surrendered two earned runs on two hits with six strikeouts.

Smorol said last season he had four pitches: a fastball, slider, changeup and curveball. But he said the curveball was inconsistent when he went 8-4 as a starter.

Smorol believes his curveball will be a more effective this time around.

“I want it to be more of a two-strike pitch and swing-and-miss pitch rather than just get it going early in the count,” Smorol said. “Hopefully adding that in my repertoire will help me this season.”

He will put it to trial and error tonight against a Hurricane offense that batted just .259 as a team last season. Miami made it last year to the Coral Gables Regional of the NCAA tournament.

The Hurricanes are ranked No. 28 in the Collegiate Baseball preseason poll, but head coach Fred Hill does not look at those things.

“It’s all about how they handle the pressure and doing the right things at the right time,” Hill said. “No matter who you play it’s always going to be, ‘put the ball in play and catch the ball,’ and I think we can do that.”

Rutgers will rely on a veteran core to do just that.

Senior catcher Jeff Melillo and junior second baseman Nick Favatella will have to continue their performance from last season to get the Knights on the right track beginning with Miami.

The duo went a combined 7-for-27 against the Hurricanes last season in three games and drove in a combined five RBI.

But that was last season, and all they have to worry about right now is adjusting to the nice weather they have missed out on.

Hill said the Knights were only able to practice outside a handful of times in the preseason.

Favatella has dealt with this his whole time here at Rutgers.

“It’s going to be a lot different going outside in the 80 degree weather,” Favatella said. “We’ve been inside in cages live, but it’s going to be a lot different. We’ve worked hard and prepared for it so hopefully we see results.”

Smorol sees the trip as the ideal situation for an opener.

“There is nothing better than going out in front of 5,000 fans and starting off the season opening night with warm weather and a big time atmosphere,” Smorol said. “Once that first pitch settles in, then you have to get rid of the jitters.”

For updates on the Rutgers baseball team, follow Bradly Derechailo on Twitter @BradlyDTargum.

By Bradly Derechailo

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