Rutgers heads south to take on Miami
Most people on the Rutgers baseball team agreed on how great of a place Miami is.
After all, in New Jersey, ice covers the ground, snow blankets the sidewalks and frigid air leaves your fingers numb if exposed long enough.
In Miami, the beaches line the city, the sun rarely hides behind clouds and the warm weather offers a perfect escape for retired seniors or college kids on spring break.
But none of those features attract the Scarlet Knights on their retreat to Florida this weekend when they play the Canes in a four-game series.
They don’t care about beaches. There is only one thing junior lefthander Howie Brey and the rest of the Knights are concerned with during their opening weekend series of the season.
“It’s going to be the first time in a while that we are going to see green grass,” Brey said. “It should be awesome since we haven’t really seen grass here.”
For the players grass and warmer weather represent the start of baseball season, so going down south gives them the opportunity to start back up again.
During the offseason and fall-ball, there were chances to practice on Bainton Field, but the weather does not permit it in the winter. The busy schedule for “The Bubble” — the Rutgers indoor practice facility — limits when, and the amount of time, the Knights can practice.
For the coaches, starting off the season with two four-game series in back-to-back weekends gives Rutgers a chance to see what it has.
While head coach Joe Litterio admitted to having a surplus of experience and depth in the rotation and bullpen, he still wants to see what he has in terms of how the rotation will unfold, followed by the relief pitchers.
“The first two weekends we play four games each one, so I think it will be a little different because we are going to need four starters,” Litterio said.
With such a condensed schedule, the rotation has far-reaching effects.
“That’s going to determine the following weekend when we go to Old Dominion. We get back on to a conference type of schedule — Friday, Saturday and Sunday," Litterio said. "Then we can determine who those guys are.”
As for now, the skipper, along with pitching coach Casey Gaynor, has decided on the starting rotation for this weekend with Brey returning as the team ace, Wake Forest transfer junior Mark McCoy slotted number two and sophomore right handers Kyle Driscoll and Gaby Rosa to round out the rotation.
Litterio and the Rutgers coaching staff said they will likely try out several different lineups when they go down for these first few weekend series along with trying out the different wrinkles on their pitching staff.
It cannot go unnoticed that Miami boasts a top-25 ranking and is traditionally one of the top teams in the nation.
With some polls ranking them as high as No. 9 and the rest having them hover right around the top-15, Rutgers knows it is not a team to be taken lightly.
“They like to run a lot,” Brey said. “Obviously, they are one of the top-25 teams in the country, so it’s going to be good facing such great competition right off the bat. We’re excited to start the season with them.”
It doesn’t matter who the opponent will be for senior outfielder and captain Vinny Zarrillo. He just wants to go down there and get the job done — which he predicts Rutgers can.
“We always want to go down and beat them. We’d like to take two or three from them this year," Zarrillo said. "Last year we were young and we have a ton of guys who have another year under their belt. I just think we are really excited to get out of this cold weather and play some good baseball.”
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