Rutgers' offense heats up heading into battle with Old Dominion
After a short one-game stand at home, the Rutgers baseball team hits the road again this weekend as it travels down to Virginia for a three-game series against Old Dominion.
It will mark the 20th consecutive season in which the Scarlet Knights (3-4) have faced the Monarchs (7-1), and they are hoping to continue swinging the bats as effectively as they have been throughout the last week in order to return to Piscataway with another series win.
“Every day is a new game, and every weekend is a new series,” said head coach Joe Litterio. “We’re hoping to carry over how we’ve been playing lately, get on the bus and head to Virginia to play Old Dominion for a three-game series. We’re going to try to win the series.”
The Knights enter the weekend fresh off an 11-3 victory over Lafayette (0-5) Wednesday, in which 7 of the 8 starters in the lineup recorded at least one hit.
Fifth-year senior first baseman Chris Suseck paved the way for the hitting outburst, cranking a 3-run home run and finishing with five RBIs on three hits in four at-bats.
A team captain, Suseck has a .357 batting average through the first few weeks of the season, and has been a big part of the team’s recent success.
The veteran is confident the team can keep up their recent offensive barrage, feeling they're accustomed to the travel at this early point of the season.
“We’re used to being on the road, especially early in the year,” he said. “When we start the season, we’re usually on the road, so we have to bring this kind of play to the series against ODU over the weekend. We’re comfortable on the road, so we are looking forward to it.”
Another spark in the lineup has been freshman outfielder Jawuan Harris.
A dual-sport athlete who is also a wide receiver on the football team, Harris has strung together some impressive performances over the last week.
In the win over the Leopards, he had four hits and added four stolen bases.
He was a catalyst in getting things going throughout the order, forming a type of double-leadoff spot batting in front of senior catcher R.J. Devish, who is at the top of the lineup.
Devish is the reigning Big Ten Player of the Week after reaching base 11-of-14 times in last weekend’s series victory over George Mason.
He scored 3 runs, also contributing with two walks and a hit against Lafayette Wednesday.
He and Harris were constantly on base and starting rallies for Rutgers, which quickly turned over the bottom of the lineup to the top with effectiveness.
“I ended up leading off the inning three times [against Lafayette], so it’s almost like a double leadoff spot,” Harris said. “We’ve been working on hitting line drives and beating out ground balls. It’s been fine for us.”
Along with the offense increasing its productivity, the pitching staff has remained consistently solid to start the season.
It will need to remain that way to hold off a potent Old Dominion offense, who have scored 17 runs over its past two games.
But there is a confidence throughout the team that they are ready to keep getting better with each game, and believe that it speaks to the depth of the roster as a whole.
“Our lineup and team is deep,” Suseck said. “We think that we can really wear out pitchers. It’s exhausting to face a deep lineup and hitting is contagious, so when we hit, we feel that we can really beat anybody.