Freshman fires shutout to lead Rutgers past Wagner
When the Rutgers baseball team wrapped up its final game of the weekend series against Michigan State, there was a sense of urgency.
In ninth place of the conference, the Scarlet Knights were on the bubble of the Big Ten Tournament and needed a good series to become postseason eligible.
After a sweep at the hands of the Spartans, head coach Joe Litterio lit a fire under his team with a message of winning midweek games made clear.
Rutgers wanted momentum heading into its conference series in two weeks against Penn State and that’s exactly what true freshman pitcher John O’Reilly gave the Knights on the mound Tuesday in the 7-1 win against Wagner.
O’Reilly went seven innings for the Knights (13-26-1, 5-10) and held the Seahawks scoreless in his outing. The Northvale, N.J., native allowed six hits and struck out five batters in the process.
“I was focused from the first pitch,” O’Reilly said. “All of the guys were making plays behind me — (sophomore Mike Carter) made a nice diving catch in centerfield to help me out. The whole time I had guys backing me up and I could pitch the way I wanted to. I was able to get ahead of batters, compared to past outings where I would fall behind — today I was just getting ahead.”
When Wagner (16-15-1) last came to Bainton Field two weeks ago, the final result did not play out exactly how Rutgers would have hoped. The Seahawks won 11-4 behind 10 runs scored in a comeback effort in the eighth inning.
Litterio noticed a difference in the Knights over the two-week span since they were blown out, and it’s taken a few bumps and bruises to get there.
“I think we learn — and I’ve said it many times this year — from failure,” Litterio said. “We are a team that has to fail in order to learn the right way to do things. They didn’t take it for granted out there today. It was 3-0 early, and we tacked on a few extra runs to get it to 7-0. Now, if they get bases loaded or runners on in the last inning, one swing won’t change the game. It makes everyone else so relaxed.”
When the game was finished after nearly two and a half hours of play, Rutgers was able to put up seven runs on six hits. Although they were outhit by the Seahawks, the Knights were able to take advantage of two errors and took extra bases when they could.
No one Rutgers player had multiple hits and only freshman infieler Milo Freeman had more than one RBI. It was about consistency up and down the lineup for the Knights.
“It feels good to get a win after losing (six out of eight games),” Carter said. “We can roll with this to take it into (Wednesday) and take it into the weekend. Getting a big lead early let everyone relax, so we will feel confident keeping the same feeling. I think we were aggressive today, we took advantage of their mistakes. We scored two runs off of their error early in the game which really kick started us. Everyone played their role today.”
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