Rutgers drops third straight game at home
The agenda set forth by head coach Joe Litterio was simple — the Rutgers baseball team needs to work harder. And those were the exact words the skipper chose to tell his team in the postgame huddle after a 6-4 loss to Monmouth.
With the third defeat in a row after losing 2-0 to Manhattan Tuesday, Litterio could only point to one thing the Scarlet Knights could do before they improve anything else.
“'It’s time to wake up' is what I told the guys,” Litterio said. “We have 30 games left in the season, and we have to come out and start working hard. We aren’t working hard as a team. We are accepting our roles and it’s time to put in some extra work to start to score guys that are on base. You have to get in the cages to do that. You can’t just expect it to happen.”
There was plenty of offense at Bainton Field in the game Wednesday between Monmouth and the Knights.
But to the dismay of the Knights (8-18, 3-3), the majority of the scoring and hitting came from the visiting Hawks.
Starting his third game of the season, freshman right-hander John O’Reilly sought for a team-high fourth win of the season and to improve upon his team-best 2.75 earned run average. And if he had been aided with timely hitting and key offense, O’Reilly might have had a different tally next to his name in the box score.
However, the Rutgers lineup did not support O’Reilly. The Knights scratched only three hits in O’Reilly’s five and one-third innings, scoring just two runs. O’Reilly finished his line allowing four earned on eight hits, striking out four.
While he might not have had his best performance by his own admission, O’Reilly did show some poise on the mound.
“It was more of a mental thing, I just didn’t do my job,” O’Reilly said. “My job is to put up zeroes and I didn’t do that — at the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to. I don’t know what it was. Some of it was command, some not, but it was just not my best stuff today.”
Although Rutgers was not facing the top pitcher in the nation, they made him look as though he was a top-caliber arm. Ricky Dennis finished five innings with only three hits allowed and no earned runs for the Hawks (6-12).
Entering the game, Dennis had a monstrous 27 earned run average and allowed a Ted Williams-like .471 batting average to the opposition. The Knights made him look like far from that form and Litterio said he was disappointed Rutgers couldn’t do more off of him.
“It’s definitely the offense,” Litterio said of the issues with the team. “When you score four runs on nine hits, it’s not good enough for what we were facing. The kid starting the game had a 27 ERA. He came in and pitched five innings and allowed just two runs. That is not acceptable. If we do accept that, it’s a problem.”
While many negatives have overshadowed what positives can be taken from the game, the Knights did rally in the bottom of the eighth inning to bring the score to 5-4 with the possibility of tying or going ahead.
But with one down, courtesy of a sac bunt from junior catcher R.J. Devish, a double-play ball ended the inning and the hopes that Rutgers would go ahead.
While late inning pushes have been the rallying cry in three of the Knights last four games — one resulting in a walk-off home run Saturday against Ohio State — that’s not where Rutgers wants to be at the end of games.
Senior first baseman Joe D’Annunzio wants and expects more from the entirety of the the Knights, including himself.
“It shouldn’t be like that, though,” D’Annunzio said of coming back in the bottom of the eighth inning. “We should be hitting like that from the get-go. Every so often, you put a couple good swings on the ball and a line drive gets caught here and there, but those last two innings a couple balls fell. But we need to focus on working harder, because right now we aren’t playing good baseball — that’s the bottom line. We have to get better and that’s it.”
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