Wagner outlasts Rutgers in slugfest
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Tasked with playing its second game at a minor league stadium this season, the Rutgers baseball team also had another obstacle hanging over its head going into its matchup against Wagner at the Richmond County Savings Bank Field, also home of the Staten Island Yankees.
The Scarlet Knights were facing the team head coach Joe Litterio managed for 12 seasons prior to coming to Rutgers.
Litterio traveled back to Staten Island for the first time since he left Wagner, and it offered a unique experience.
“Tomorrow will be fun,” Litterio said Tuesday following the Knights’ 6-4 win against Rider. “Getting a chance to go back to the old place that I coached for a while and see the guys and all the people ... it will be interesting.”
The game did end up being interesting. Taking over three hours, the teams recorded 23 total hits with upwards of 25 mile per hour gusts of wind blowing from left field off the Hudson River.
In the top of the ninth inning, after two straight walks to lead off the inning, senior Lou Clemente stepped in with a chance to erase a 10-7 deficit.
Clemente struck out, and pinch hitter Mike Zavalla followed it up with another strikeout before freshman outfielder Mike Carter grounded out to end the game, 10-7, in favor of the Seahawks (12-23).
It was a game of who wanted it more, said junior outfielder Joe D’Annunzio.
“They outplayed us today, they outhit us and they outpitched us,” D’Annunzio said. “We just got to do a better job and there’s not much else we can do.”
But the Knights (19-19, 6-5) started off hot.
Rutgers exploded for five runs in the top half of the first inning and batted around the lineup for a 22-minute frame.
What seemed like plenty of runs to support freshman lefthander Ryan Fleming turned out not to be enough. Fleming gave up 10 hits and five earned runs in only two-and-one third innings.
Fleming was not the only one guilty of forfeiting runs while on the mound. Four pitchers for the Knights combined to allow 10 earned runs.
“We came out and scored five runs [in the first inning] and went up 6-0 in the second,” Litterio said. “But, then we gave up a three spot. The pitching really wasn’t great today. It was shaky at best.”
The gusts of wind blowing throughout the game seemed to play a factor as balls hit to left center ended up traveling all the way to right field. Countless balls hit in the gap found a fielder’s glove and other hits took unconventional hops.
Junior closer Jon Young came in during the bottom of the eighth to work a scoreless inning after allowing the first three runners on base. A timely double play after a line drive stopped any more runs from coming in.
The conditions should not have played a factor, Young said.
“I think if you let [the wind] get in your head, then the conditions are going to bother you,” Young said. “If you can block it out, you’ll be fine. The fly balls are blowing all over the place, but for the most part I don’t think we let it get to us too much.”
But a loss to a lesser-known team such as Wagner proves something about both ball clubs, Litterio said.
A win by the Seahawks just shows not only how bad they wanted the win, but also how much this game really meant to them.
“What we have to realize, and what we don’t realize, is when we go and play these teams on midweek, it’s a big deal for those guys,” Litterio said. “To beat a team like Rutgers is something you can get momentum off of. … If you can beat a team like Rutgers, it can make your season.”
For updates on the Rutgers baseball team, follow Tyler Karalewich on Twitter @TylerKaralewich. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.