Rutgers sets for rebound versus Rams
After Sunday’s 5-3 loss to Seton Hall, Rutgers head baseball coach Fred Hill could not quite put a finger on what his team needed to take out of its performance.
But then he got hold of the stat sheet.
“I don’t know to be honest with you,” Hill said. “I guess we have to start swinging the bats better. If we swing the bats better with the defense we are presently playing and the pitching we’re getting, we’ll be alright.”
The Scarlet Knights produced just two hits against the Pirates on Sunday, including only one in the first seven innings of the game.
That can be credited to Seton Hall lefthander Greg Terhune, who went seven and one-third innings without allowing the Knights in the hit column.
It was not as if Rutgers was unable to make contact against Terhune, who only had four strikeouts during his stint on the hill.
Sophomore outfielder Vinny Zarrillo said after the game Terhune kept Rutgers batters off-balance with his curveball, but otherwise the Knights were able to make contact against the lefthander.
Junior centerfielder Brian O’Grady was also a little perplexed at Terhune’s effectiveness, as he sports a 2-2 record with a 2.65 ERA.
“Personally I was a little out in front to start,” O’Grady said. “I don’t know what made him so effective really. He was mixing it up pretty well. I don’t know — he just did a good job I guess.”
For Rutgers (14-14, 6-3), the series loss was its first to a Big East opponent this season. The Knights dropped the first game against the Pirates, 15-1, behind senior lefthander Rob Smorol’s worst outing of the season and a lack of offensive production.
Rutgers’ performance in the second game prevented the sweep, and O’Grady believes the series loss is not as bad as it seems — the Knights currently sit in third place in the Big East thanks to their 6-3 conference record.
“I think we’ll be fine,” O’Grady said. “We have to learn from this and play better than we have before. You never like to lose, but sometimes you can learn from it and I think we will.”
Hill will get the opportunity to see how Rutgers responds today when it travels to the Bronx to play its only game before the weekend against Fordham (11-19).
The Rams enter the contest losers of 12 of their last 13 games, with just a 4-3 win against St. Joseph’s during that span.
Rutgers learned its lesson against an inferior team a few weeks ago thanks to a 9-3 loss to Rider in Lawrenceville, N.J., and it knows losing games like today’s does nothing to help.
Hill said Sunday junior righthander Slater McCue will get the nod for his fourth start of the season.
McCue, who was the losing pitcher against the Broncs, only lasted three and a third innings in his last start against Columbia. He allowed four runs in that outing, but Rutgers had one of its most productive offensive outings of the season in what turned into a 16-6 victory.
The offense must be the emphasis today, and the Knights’ track record suggests they are capable of coming through if McCue struggles.
But Rutgers will have to produce more than two hits if it wants to pick up the win.
“We just have to stay focused and we have to play our best every game,” O’Grady said. “We’re a very good team when we play like we can, but if we don’t play like we can we can lose any game.”
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