All-around issues hinder Rutgers at Iona
For the Rutgers baseball team, the same issues arose yesterday that have been facing them all season.
While the Scarlet Knights offense has produced time and time again, their pitching staff has been inconsistent.
The Knights dropped the second game of their midweek series at Iona, 6-4, after beating the Gaels (4-13) on Tuesday, 7-5, at home.
Rutgers (10-14) had a chance to tie it up in the top of the ninth after junior outfielder Vinny Zarrillo worked a full-count walk. But with two outs already forwarded from the Knights, all they had was the unlikely shot at coming back.
While the pitching staff saw its own share of struggles, the offense did not produce according to head coach Joe Litterio.
Although Rutgers collected nine hits, scoring four runs, the quality of their at-bats was dissatisfactory for Litterio.
“We played on a really big field, and that doesn’t help us too much. But we hit too many balls in the air that weren’t going anywhere,” Litterio said. “Yes, nine hits and four runs is good, but I’m very disappointed at the fact that we didn’t have quality at-bats throughout the game, especially in the last four innings. Our bats were sloppy and we didn’t get guys on base to put more pressure on them.”
Four runs were not enough to support the pitching staff that allowed six runs on five hits and six base-on-balls. The Knights also left 10 runners on base offensively.
The fact that the pitching staff lost their accuracy on the mound did not aid Rutgers.
“These guys have been out there before. We just really didn’t have command and got sloppy,” Litterio said. “The whole game — not just the two guys on the mound pitching, but the guys in the field — everything we tried to do today wasn’t working.”
After another early departure from freshman lefthander Ryan Fleming, redshirt freshman Kevin Baxter found himself having to make up innings again in a long-relief role.
Fleming pitched fine in his fifth start of the season following his outing that ended early last Friday after being struck in the head with a batted ball.
The first two innings saw Fleming allow one earned run, but the Churchville, Pa., native struggled with command through his first two innings, forfeiting four walks.
Fleming collected two outs after allowing a single to start the third inning, and then Rutgers surrendered its 4-1 lead. Two walks, a wild pitch and a triple tied Iona with the Knights.
Baxter ultimately earned the losing decision, but allowed only three hits and two runs in five innings of relief.
Baxter did not share the sentiments that he had quality innings. His fourth loss of the season left a bitter taste in his mouth.
“I was able to get ahead early, but other than that everything was pretty frustrating,” Baxter said struggling to find words in his disappointment. “I just really don’t know what to say thinking back about that game.”
Although Baxter was frustrated with his performance, it was only his second-career relief appearance at Rutgers and is a new role for him altogether.
Pitching last Friday against the Huskies helped established good experience for the Waterford, N.J., native.
“I’ve never really relieved before in my life,” Baxter said. “But, [pitching last week against UConn] really helped me to be more mentally prepared later in the game and help me do my job.”
While Rutgers has typically performed better on offense this season, and the team shares Litterio’s disappointment — it comes down to something much simpler.
It could have just been an off day for the Knights, said junior outfielder Joe D’Annunzio.
“Obviously hitting’s not something easy to do. Our pitchers kept us in the game and our hitters didn’t get to the offense,” D’Annunzio said. “It’s just tough to hit every day.”
For updates on the Rutgers baseball team, follow Tyler Karalewich on Twitter @TylerKaralewich. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.