Knights impress in series win
With a 3-9 record before spring break, the Rutgers baseball team could not have asked for a better remedy than a seven-game road trip.
“Usually every year I’ve been here, we usually get hot during spring break and it’s the time we seem to be swinging the bats the best and getting real comfortable with what we are doing,” said senior lefthander Rob Smorol. “Maybe we needed the four weeks before [spring break] to dust off the cobwebs to now be able to get on a role.”
While the Scarlet Knights went 5-2 during the break, their biggest success came in unlikely territory.
Rutgers captured its series, 2-1, at No. 4 Louisville (19-4, 1-4), the Cardinals’ first series loss of the season and first series win against a ranked opponent since they defeated Pittsburgh 2-1 in 2010.
In its’ two losses, Louisville was not even close.
In the rubber game of the series, the Knights turned to Charlie Law on three-days rest, and the senior righthander did not disappoint.
Law lasted eight innings in the 7-3 win against Louisville, as he allowed just one run on six hits with three strikeouts for his first win as a starter.
He also went 2-4 in the contest, including an RBI single in the top of the 2nd inning to put the Knights up 2-0.
Law increased his average to a team-best .412 this season, something head coach Fred Hill can live with from a player who contributes on the hill as well as from the plate.
Rutgers (8-11, 2-1) dropped the second game to the Cardinals, a 4-0 shutout where it recorded just three hits — a substantial difference from its performance in the first game of the series.
In that game, the Knights slugged for 13 hits while Smorol kept Louisville in check.
Smorol gave up six hits and two earned runs over seven innings for his second win of the season.
“I feel like I’m starting to hit my stride right now and I feel real comfortable on the mound,” Smorol said. “All my pitches are working real well and I hope I can stay this way, and if I’m able to do that, we’re going to be fine.”
The series win is a 180-degree turn from how Rutgers has performed against teams with Louisville’s talent level.
The Knights went a combined 0-for-6 against Miami (Fla.) and No. 11 Georgia Tech earlier this season, as they could not string together clutch hits against the Hurricanes and failed to keep the ball out of play with the Yellow Jackets.
The combined 13 runs against Louisville is something Hill expected, and a 3-1 combined record against Virginia Commonwealth and Richmond during the break can only give Hill confidence in his lineup with conference about to take full swing.
“I thought it would be a matter of time,” Hill said. “It didn’t happen in game earlier in the year ... but it’s the best time to have it happen in the conference portion.”
But Rutgers will first have to travel to Lawrenceville, N.J., tomorrow to play Rider in a midweek out of conference matchup, and while the Broncs may not match the caliber of the No. 4 team in the country, it is all the same to Hill.
“All wins matter when you’re down under .500 by three games,” Hill said. “We’ve got to get back up and get things done. We try to treat every game like it is a big game now.”
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