Yellow Jacket offense presents new challenge
If there is anything the Old Dominion series illustrated for the Rutgers baseball team, the Scarlet Knights have the ability to put together offense when needed.
The Knights crossed home plate 17 times in their last game against the Monarchs, their second win in the series.
“Pretty much we just have to realize we are a good hitting ball club and we see a lot of things we are capable of doing and the defense is going to be there,” said senior reliever Nathaniel Roe of their offense. “So we have to keep being consistent hitting the ball.”
And while the starting rotation saw an improvement from their first series against Miami to their most recent, offense will have to be at a premium when the Knights begin their three-game series tonight at Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets, ranked No. 16 in the country according to Baseball America, feature a top-50 offense and four batters with .400 or better averages at the dish.
They are led by rightfielder Daniel Palka‘s .559 average, a stat line Rutgers’ offense cannot expect the rotation to decrease.
That begins with driving runners in, but senior lefthander Rob Smorol believes the responsibility lies with both hitters and pitchers.
“I think we need to improve on a lot of things to beat a top-20 team in the nation,” Smorol said. “I think we need to bear down a little bit pitching wise and hit our spots better. The hitters need to concentrate more with runners in scoring position and score a couple runs there.”
The consensus of the team, including head coach Fred Hill, is that the defense has improved, which cannot come at a better time against an offensive team like the Yellow Jackets.
Rutgers committed two errors, an improvement from the six they surrendered against the Hurricanes.
That total included three in the Knights’ 7-0 loss in the third game of the series, where nothing could go in the their favor.
Hill said his team lacked energy in the third contest, and Rutgers cannot afford another letdown in the effort department.
“I want to see us compete,” Hill said. “That’s the first and most important thing in my concern. If you win the game I think it’s great for this time of year, but the No. 1 thing is to compete and see if you’re going to be better. If you don’t, then I think you got a problem.”
The Knights will stick with the same starting rotation, with Smorol looking for his second-consecutive win, as he allowed four hits in eight shutout innings against Old Dominion.
Smorol is interested to see what his team can do with games under its belt and if he and senior righthanders Tyler Gebler and Charlie Law can go deeper into games.
“I think we’ve done a decent job for how early it is in the year,” Smorol said. “Obviously we have not seen a lot of hitters thus far, so now it‘s time to show what we can do and take it up a notch because we’ve seen two weekends of hitters. I’m really interested to see what we are going to do against a hitting team like Georgia Tech.“
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