Rookie pitcher tosses gem in debut start for Rutgers
The bats woke up for the Rutgers baseball team against Iona and the pitching staff followed through as well. What had been a problem for the Scarlet Knights in the nine losses to start the season was not an issue against the Gaels.
The Knights scored the second-most runs in the young season and had a season-high in hits in their 12-3 win over Iona — their second victory of the season and their first during a midweek game.
On a team littered with experience in the rotation and one that returns several pitchers with roles last year in the bullpen, it was a pair of rookie pitchers who impressed.
In his first start of his career — and only his second outing at Rutgers — right-hander John O’Reilly shined at Bainton Field.
O’Reilly made quick work through the second and fifth innings, allowing no runs during that span. O’Reilly also looked poised in tight situations stranding runners on base.
The Northern Valley Regional High School (N.J.) product left the game after six, having tossed five and two-thirds innings with six strikeouts and three earned runs.
Collecting his first win of the season, O’Reilly found out how big of a jump it is to go from facing high school batters to the college level.
However, the first win holds something special.
“It’s great to get my first win,” O’Reilly said. “Only the other day I got my first appearance and today I got my first win. Both went good ... I wish I could have finished a little stronger, but it’s good to get it off my shoulders. The more I got ahead, the better I did. When I fell behind, that’s when they got the doubles and walks. It’s a whole different game from high school — we got guys on our team that can crush the ball.”
Also impressive on the mound was freshman right-hander Ryan Wares, allowing no runs, hits and only one walk in two and one-third innings of relief.
Head coach Joe Litterio said if the young arms continue to throw this well, especially during the midweek games, then they will find some innings during the weekend series against the top-tier opponents.
“Its great that those young guys pitched well,” Litterio said. “John (O'Reilly) came out and pitched a hell of a game, and that’s why he was there. At FAU, he pitched four solid innings and he threw strikes today. So if you look at our stats, we aren’t throwing a lot of strikes, so we are going to go to the young guys. If they can do it, they are going to find themselves on the weekends. It was good to see both guys do it. I have no problems throwing them out on the weekend if they compete like this.”
When the hitting has been this effective, the pitching has sometimes suffered to support them. The same goes when the pitching has been lights out, the Knights’ bats have failed to back up the pitchers this season.
Everything came together for Rutgers on Wednesday, as it was one run shy of a season-high at 12 runs and recorded a season-high 13 hits. Rutgers also coupled the timely hitting with what Litterio calls the “Fred Hill style of baseball,” where good offense is coupled with effective fielding and aggressive base running.
Senior outfielder Vinny Zarrillo said when everything comes together and the Knights play a complete game like they did on Wednesday, the team will be hard to beat. With two hits, three runs batted in and a run, Zarrillo was excited to see the bats come alive.
“I think our approaches were good,” Zarrillo said. “We were being selective and looking for pitches to drive. The results showed it. When the hitting, pitching and everything goes together — that’s what we want to be. We put it together nicely, and if we keep it going, we will be tough to beat. When you play a complete game like that, you usually come out on top.”
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