July 23, 2019 | 71° F

Rutgers eyes redemption post sweep

Photo by Tian Li |

Head coach Joe Litterio said that because of the youthful roster, Rutgers has had an up-and-down season.

For the Rutgers baseball team, things were supposed to go smoother this past weekend against AAC-leading Central Florida.

But after being swept by UCF, the Scarlet Knights (19-22, 6-8) now find themselves sixth in the conference standings after sitting in third following last weekend’s series against Cincinnati.

Head coach Joe Litterio expects more from the Knights before they play their midweek games today against Villanova (12-28, 3-9) and tomorrow at Monmouth (15-20).

The skipper said with not many baseball games left in the season, he requires more production from Rutgers than what it forwarded in the last four outings — all losses.

Rutgers can take some sort of moral victory out of the weekend — although Litterio has said in the past he rarely thinks that way — in that the Knights played impressive baseball in the first two games of the series, letting the second one slip away.

“Friday and Saturday were very good baseball games and we got good pitching and good defense, but we didn’t get timely hitting and I think that is what cost us,” Litterio said after Sunday’s loss to UCF. “Friday was a great pitching duel and that was a classic baseball game. And we should’ve won Saturday and we had an opportunity to win. [UCF] played very well, and it was deflating to lose in the 11th inning.”

Sunday was a different game entirely for the Knights as they lost 10-3 and stranded 11 runners on base offensively. The letdown from those two close losses might have played into how the Knights performed.

Redshirt freshman righthander Kevin Baxter said Rutgers needs to be more mentally focused going into games.

“It’s not alright [that Sunday’s game] got away from us,” Baxter said. “We have to be a little bit more mentally tougher. We have to bear down, focus and get it done.”

With three weekend series left on the season, all against conference opponents, the Knights know the value of each game they play.

For junior outfielder Joe D’Annunzio, those weekend series will be more important for building momentum than worrying about the conference standings.

“[The next three weekend series] are definitely big. Not so much for seeding, but just so that we can get on a roll and go hot into the [AAC] Tournament,” D’Annunzio said. “As you go, you get hot at a time when you hope to play good baseball when you get to tournament time. We want to continue to put quality games together, and if we do that, wins will come.”

But for the rest of the season, Litterio knows what he can expect from his team — complete uncertainty of how it is going to streak.

“Well, when you have this many freshmen, I know, the coaching staff knows, it’s going to be a roller coaster type of year,” Litterio said. “We’ll go on runs where we win five, and then we will go on runs where we lose four.”

For updates on the Rutgers baseball team, follow Tyler Karalewich on Twitter @TylerKaralewich. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.

Tyler Karalewich

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