June 23, 2018 | ° F

Baseball: Defense, pitching become points of emphasis

Photo by The Daily Targum |

Junior shortstop Pat Sweeney and the rest of the Rutgers defense will look to cut down on errors in its weekend series with William & Mary. Rutgers commited seven in their last series against Georgia Tech.

When asked about what the Rutgers baseball team could take out of its three-game series lost to Georgia Tech last weekend, sophomore leftfielder Vinny Zarrillo could only go back to the emotions he felt after the sweep.

“I think a lot of us felt kind of embarrassed after,” Zarrillo said. “We know we’re a much better team than getting outscored by 33 runs, so we just have to put it in the past and not dwell on it, and we are going to look forward to this weekend with the mindset of winning three games.”

The Scarlet Knights (2-7) begins its three-game series with William & Mary (8-4) tonight, as head coach Fred Hill wants to see answers against a team he believes Rutgers should have a better time with than the Yellow Jackets.

But most importantly, he wants results.

“We are looking obviously to win the series,” Hill said. “Georgia Tech is a good team and we have nothing to be ashamed of, but we didn’t play as well as we could. Right now, we have to play as well as we’re capable of playing so we can beat a team that is on par with us or maybe slightly better.”

That begins in two areas for the Knights, with the first coming on the diamond.

Rutgers committed seven errors against Georgia Tech, including four in its 11-2 loss in the second game.

Junior shortstop Pat Sweeney committed one of the seven miscues, his fifth of the season.

And while the 33 Georgia Tech runs in the series were not all a result of errors, the Knights cannot afford to have a hole in their defense the way things have gone thus far this season.

“We just need to play more relaxed,” Sweeney said. “I think [last] weekend we were tight and that affected our defensive play. When you play a team like Georgia Tech, you have to take out the positives and negatives and work on the mistakes, which we have been doing.”

Hill will also look for answers from his starting rotation, as the trio combined for 20 earned runs in only 11.1 innings.

Hill will go with the same rotation of senior lefthander Rob Smorol and righthanders Tyler Gebler and Charlie Law, but said early in the week he was not afraid to make changes to his weekend staff.

That could begin with his best reliever this season, senior Nathaniel Roe.

Roe pitched in 5.1 innings in the series, allowing one run on six hits with five strikeouts.

Roe does have much starting experience, making 11 rotational appreances in 2011 before going down with an injury.

While Rutgers would like to fix its problems sooner rather than later, the nonconference schedule provides the team with more leeway to improve before Big East play.

So the only way it can get better is by playing.

“It’s definitely a team effort,” Zarrillo said. “We work as a team and win and lose as a team. I don’t think it is anything individual or stuff like that. We just have to come together and play baseball and I think we will be alright.”

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

By Bradly Derechailo

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