Rutgers seeks momentum in midweek games
The Rutgers baseball team hosted its first home series of the season this past weekend against Ohio State and the results were not what the team envisioned.
Heading into back-to-back midweek games against Manhattan Tuesday and Monmouth Wednesday, the Scarlet Knights will need to rebound in order to gain some momentum before the weekend, but not before clearing the most recent series loss from their mind.
Opening up the series, the Knights (8-16, 3-3) began the weekend with a dismal 13-4 loss against the Buckeyes where Rutgers was outhit 12-8 in the contest. The problems for Knights stemmed from a defense and offense that failed to support the starting pitcher — Rutgers committed three errors on the day, while also stranding seven runners on base.
The Knights followed up their poor outing Friday with back-to-back positive performances. Rutgers won in walk-off fashion Saturday, 4-2, when freshman designated hitter Kyle Walker crushed a hanging slider in the bottom of the ninth for a three-run home run.
The Knights followed that up with an impressive pitching performance in a 1-0 loss in the rubbermatch against the Buckeyes. Sophomore right-hander Gaby Rosa impressed, spinning a gem after a long hiatus from the mound in favor of playing middle infield.
Although Rutgers was in contention to win the last two games of the series despite a blowout in the opening game, the one common thread was the failure to produce offensively. Litterio tried in the final game to shuffle up the lineup in order to make the offense run a bit smoother.
“Knowing that kid was a left-handed pitcher, I just took (sophomore outfielder Mike Carter) and dropped him down to the eighth spot in the lineup,” Litterio said after the 1-0 loss to Ohio State Sunday. “I wanted to give him a little breather — he’s been struggling a little bit, being in the leadoff spot for a year and a half now. He has a lot of pressure on him and I wanted to take a little off of him. That’s all it was.”
With two midweek games in the way of next weekend’s home series against Minnesota, Litterio will use the games to prepare the lineup and give some guys a different chance to compete.
Litterio also hinted that more lineup changes are possible for both of the midweek games and that he has a good idea who will get a chance to start one of the games on the mound.
“I think we might play a few different guys Tuesday (against Manhattan) and Wednesday (against Monmouth),” Litterio said. “That’s just to get some other guys in there. Pitching-wise, I don’t know who we will go with. We didn’t use (freshman right hander John O’Reilly) this weekend, so maybe we’ll use him a little bit on Tuesday or Wednesday.”
O’Reilly has been one of the Knights' best pitchers this spring, mostly competing in midweek games. The rookie has posted a 3-0 record this season and boasts an earned run average below three — his opposing batting average is also below .250.
But as good as Rutgers' pitching has been, the offense wants to take strides to make their job easier. Senior first baseman Joe D’Annunzio knows exactly what needs to be done during the midweek and what went wrong during the Ohio State series.
“I think we hit some balls hard (Sunday) — we had a lot of line drives that they made some nice catches on,” D’Annunzio said. “We’re just going to keep grinding out at-bats, get ourselves into good counts and keep driving the baseball.”
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