Freshman pitches past Seahawks
Howie Brey said it took him a while to get rid of the jitters associated with playing as a freshman.
But the reliever delivered another important performance for the Rutgers baseball team yesterday, an appearance that helped the Scarlet Knights (20-19, 8-7) capture a 9-5 home victory against Wagner (15-23) at Bainton Field.
“I feel much more comfortable now,” Brey said. “In the beginning of the year, I felt like a freshman. I kind of felt like they banged me around a little bit. But you just get your confidence back after some outings and you get back out there, you’re not a freshman and you’re just one of the older guys out there pitching.”
Brey (2-2) entered the game with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning as the Knights held just a 4-3 advantage against the Seahawks.
The Middletown, N.J., native pitched four-and-two-thirds innings with eight hits and two runs allowed, lasting long enough for freshman reliever Jerry Elsing to finish up the game in the top of the ninth.
For Brey, it was the second straight midweek game in which he lasted more than four innings, which allows Rutgers to save more of its arms for weekend series.
One of his secondary pitches was the reason for his success.
“With my curveball, I’m getting a lot more people to ground out to get us out of situations,” Brey said. “So definitely my curveball being thrown for strikes is a big part of that.”
Despite Brey’s performance, Wagner out-hit Rutgers, 14-to-11, with the Knights collecting the only error of the game.
But what Rutgers has done well in its wins recently is put together hits when it mattered, and yesterday was no different.
The Knights plated three runs in the bottom of the fourth, including a RBI single to center field by senior leftfielder Steve Zavala, who drove in junior second baseman Nick Favatella for a 6-3 lead. Senior catcher Jeff Melillo also collected an RBI single in the inning, while freshman shortstop John Jennings scored on a sacrifice groundball by sophomore rightfielder Vinny Zarrillo.
The fourth inning was a representation of Rutgers’ ability to make its hits count, and its offense forced Wagner righthander Dakota Dvorak out after the second inning.
“We got into their bullpen really early,” Zavala said. “Their starter was out with two innings and then their next guy was out in two innings, so getting into their pen early definitely helped out our offense.”
Rutgers will travel to Omaha, Neb., for three nonconference games, one of which will come against Big 12 member Oklahoma State.
While the Knights’ results in their next three games are uncertain, their performances in their last two games pushed them above .500.
It is a mark Zavala is proud of.
“It’s pretty huge for us getting over .500,” Zavala said. “We are going to play some tough competition, so we had to deliver closer to home.”
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