Connecticut begins crucial homestand
When Delaware beat the Rutgers baseball team Wednesday, it marked the Scarlet Knights’ fifth straight loss that began last Friday against Oklahoma St.
Right now is not the best time for a losing streak, and senior catcher Jeff Melillo knows how imperative the next six conference games are for the Knights.
“It’s very important to get wins in these next two series, but we have to go one game at a time,” Melillo said. “So we have to get one win at a time and improve each game.”
The top eight teams in the conference will advance to the Big East Championships at the end of the month, and right now the Knights are in pretty good standing.
Rutgers (20-24, 8-7) sits in fifth place in the Big East standings, with series against Connecticut, Georgetown and South Florida remaining.
UConn (27-19, 8-10) will be the Knights’ first, as the Huskies arrive at Bainton Field today for a three-game series.
Head coach Fred Hill said the goal with Big East series is to take two out of three each time.
The Knights have done well with that this far, but Hill knows theses are crucial times.
“It’s very crucial,” Hill said. “If we don’t do well, we’re not going to be in Florida. That’s our first goal — to get into the playoffs. Once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen. … We just want to get into the playoffs and then it’s up to us from there.”
While Rutgers controls its own destiny, it also has to deal with its recent poor performances.
The Knights struggled at the plate Wednesday with the Blue Hens, as Delaware righthander Dan Gotto allowed just five hits in a complete game effort.
But in Tuesday’s 10-9 loss against Hofstra, Rutgers produced nine runs against the Pride.
Junior righthander Slater McCue believes the Knights just need to play like he knows it is capable of.
“I think we just need to keep hitting,” McCue said. “Obviously, we proved [Tuesday against Hofstra] we could do well, we just need to pitch well and have everything kind of time up and just click.”
Usually Rutgers is able to rebound during weekend play because it gets to use its top-three starters.
But senior righthander Tyler Gebler will continue to sit out because of injury, which will bump senior righthander Charlie Law into the No. 2 spot in the rotation. Senior lefthander Rob Corsi will start in game three. Senior righthander Rob Smorol will go in Game 1.
Smorol (4-4) pitched five-and-two-thirds innings in his last start against Oklahoma St. last Friday, a 4-1 loss to the Cowboys.
He allowed just six hits, but four runs crossed the plate while Smorol pitched.
Smorol faces a Connecticut lineup that sits in the middle of the Big East with a .273 batting average.
The Huskies begin the Knights’ seven-game homestand, which includes a newly scheduled midweek contest against St. Peters.
Law believes the best remedy for Rutgers’ losing streak is to combine the positives from its last two losses.
“I feel like if we can put [Wednesday] and [Tuesday]’s game together the way we hit [Tuesday] and the way we pitched [Wednesday], we should have no problems this weekend,” Law said. “There should be no problem for us to win those games.”
For updates on the Rutgers baseball team, follow Bradly Derechailo on Twitter @Bradly_D. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.”