Start benefits pitcher’s psyche
Rutgers head baseball coach Fred Hill knew exactly what being named Big East Pitcher of the Week would do for Rob Smorol’s mentality on the mound.
“I think his confidence level has to be sky high,” Hill said. “It adds a little more to that. He certainly deserves it.”
Smorol earned the recognition thanks to his showing on the hill in the Scarlet Knights first victory of the season.
The senior lefthander threw eight innings in the 3-0 win against Old Dominion, an effort he partially credits to the rejuvenation of his curveball he worked on in the offseason.
He struck out seven Monarchs in his second start of the year, bringing his total to 13 this season. the total is the highest on the team.
With only one walk in the game and two on the season, his control is more important than any awards he receives.
Still, he does not mind the attention.
“It felt good. I guess you can say it was well deserved,” Smorol said. “I was happy that I was able to get some recognition, but I’m more happy with how the way I threw and hopefully I can continue that and not really worry about the accolades and worry about the game.”
The performance also put a stamp on Smorol being Hill’s No. 1 pitcher. Smorol said his spot in the rotation does not matter because he and senior righthanders Tyler Gebler and Charlie Law share equal responsibilities no matter who starts which day.
Part of that responsibility is going as deep into games as possible to put less of a burden on the bullpen.
“[Going long innings] puts a huge amount of relief on our bullpen because it saves arms,” said senior reliever Nathaniel Roe. “Guys are able to stay fresher into the rest of the weekend and it makes everything ten times easier as far as preparation is concerned.”
Roe closed out the game shutout for Smorol on no hits with one strikeout in the bottom of the ninth.
“When the guy gives you that good of a game, you are going to want to finish it off for him and get the W,” Roe said. “Obviously there is some added pressure but you know what you have to do and pretty much compete.”
While a strong game the likes of Smorol’s does put a little more urgency to do well in his relief, it also allows Hill to save the majority of his bullpen for later in the series, where they may be needed more if the No. 2 and 3 starters do not go as long.
“It’s big,” Smorol said. “You go with whoever is hot, either [Nathaniel] Row or [senior reliever Rob] Corsi or even [ junior reliever Charlie] Lasky, and you only have to use one or two of them rather than using three or four of them. … It’s big on their arms not pitching a lot over the weekend.”
For Hill to enjoy that luxury, Smorol will have to replicate his outing in the Knights’ first game against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are No. 16 in the country according to Baseball America with a 6-1 record.
But Hill sees no reason why Smorol cannot match with the step up in talent.
“I think he likes the challenge,” Hill said. “He likes to pitch against the better teams and this is one of the better teams we are going to play. He’ll be ready.”
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