In-conference experience prepares Rutgers for Huskies
Going 1-2 against an opponent in a weekend series is usually seen as less than ideal for any team who wants to win more games than it loses.
But for the Rutgers baseball team, dropping two of three against No. 7 Louisville last weekend was not the worst thing that could have happened to the team.
With an 11-2 win on Sunday, rebounding from a 9-8 defeat the night before, head coach Joe Litterio feels the team can feed off the close performances against a top team.
“Going into conference play, every pitch and every play has a lot more pressure on it,” Litterio said following the win against Louisville. “You couldn’t have planned it any better for these young guys. They know what it’s about going into the rest of the year.”
The Scarlet Knights (8-12, 1-2) are tasked with playing conference foe Connecticut (11-11, 1-2) during this weekend’s 3-game series, which begins this afternoon in Storrs, Conn.
While playing an AAC opponent can be difficult, Rutgers has an advantage coming off its series with Louisville.
For the offense, the Knights faced pitchers who were able to throw harder than what Rutgers is used to.
Going up against top-level pitchers prepares the Knights moving forward as they continue to face diversity on the mound, said freshman third baseman Christian Campbell.
“A lot of their pitchers were pretty good. Every guy [Louisville] had that we faced threw low 90s (miles per hour) or mid-90s,” Campbell said. “That’s going to prepare me this weekend, because you aren’t really going to face much better than that. Going up against the No. 7 team helps us moving forward in the conference and out-of-conference.”
The experience against the Cardinals is not limited to the offense.
The Knights pitchers will benefit from going up against one of the top offense in the AAC.
Freshman lefthander Ryan Fleming pitched three and two thirds innings against Louisville, and he said that will help him prepare for the Huskies.
“Louisville is a very good team hitting-wise, and they are one of the top teams in the nation. It definitely helps us moving forward,” Fleming said. “I’m going to throw strikes knowing that my defense will back me up. Our bats have been doing pretty well, so I know I have to throw strikes and get guys out.”
With their first conference series out of the way, the weekend in Connecticut seems less daunting for Litterio.
With a tough matchup on the mound against UConn, Litterio feels the offense can adjust.
“Going into a weekend against Louisville, especially a ranked team, there was a little more pressure. Getting the first conference weekend under their belt prepared them for how conference games are,” Litterio said. “We’re going to be seeing three lefties from UConn, and I think we are going to see a lot more of that this year. Having faced so many lefties, with our lineup being predominately left-handed, we are prepared for whatever they throw at us.”
For updates on the Rutgers baseball team, follow Tyler Karalewich on Twitter @TylerKaralewich. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.