Rutgers welcomes first home Big Ten series of season against Indiana
The season is starting to pick up for the Rutgers baseball team, with conference play on the schedule once again this weekend.
The Scarlet Knights (9-15, 0-3) are set to take on Indiana (12-11) for the first Big Ten series at Bainton Field this season.
It will be a big opportunity for the Knights to begin to turn their season around, as they enter the weekend having lost 5 of their last 6 games.
After beating Monmouth soundly at home on Tuesday by a score of 20-4, they were unable to capitalize on their momentum and were defeated at Monmouth, 12-2, on Wednesday.
To beat a tough and experienced team like Indiana, Rutgers knows it will have to rejuvenate quickly and defend its home field, where it has seen plenty of success over the last few seasons.
The Knights are 3-0 at home early in the season, while posting a 5-15 record on the road.
Though it was a short trip to play Monmouth in West Long Branch on Wednesday, Rutgers was disappointed that it could not carry over its strong 20-4 performance against those same Hawks they had at home.
Playing the Hoosiers presents another opportunity for the Knights to try to find some consistency, and they will regroup by sending their top starting pitchers, including senior Howie Brey, to the mound.
“After playing well one day, it’s important to get off to a quick start the next time out, but it didn’t happen for us,” Litterio said. “You want to start off well and not let the other team believe after beating them the day before, so hopefully we can correct that.”
The lineup received a big boost recently when junior outfielder Mike Carter returned from injury.
He has played in only six games for the season, but the Bloomfield, New Jersey, native is batting .565 with a .696 slugging percentage.
A team captain and a preseason Big Ten Player to Watch, his presence provides a big bat in the middle of the lineup.
“Heading into the year, we expected Mike to be a big contributor for us,” Litterio said. “He’s a captain and losing him early in the year hurt us. Getting him back now is important because it makes our lineup deeper and longer, which is good for us.”
Carter has played a year in the Big Ten, and knows that it will again be a challenge for him and his teammates.
Last season, Rutgers was swept in a three game series on the road against the Hoosiers, though two of the losses were by only 1 run.
Seven of Rutgers' losses this season have also been by just 1 run, as it has been involved in many close games, but are not getting the winning results it is hoping for.
Fortunately for the Knights, the bulk of the season still remains, and they are using each series as an opportunity to turn things around, especially since it is a Big Ten clash.
“You need a short memory in baseball, and we just have to get ready to play and have everyone contribute against Indiana,” Carter said. “We need to focus for all nine innings of each game.”
Freshman outfielder Mike Martinez belted his first two career home runs in the win over Monmouth, and is just getting his first taste of Big Ten play.
It is an exciting time for the team to play a conference foe at home, and even more so for the younger players who are experiencing it for the first time.
Martinez hopes to continue producing at the plate, and is eager to continue getting acclimated to conference play.
“We can’t wait to finally stay home because we’ve been away for so many weekends now,” he said. “It will be nice to play in front of the home crowd and get into some conference play. It will be really competitive.”