Rutgers collects wins over Saint Joseph's in Piscataway, Philadelphia
The cold and rainy weather seems to be sticking with the Rutgers baseball team when it plays games at home, but it is not fazing them a bit.
The Scarlet Knights (14-16) picked up two more wins over the weekend against St. Joseph’s (13-14), and have now won six of their last eight games.
After struggling with some 1-run losses throughout March, the Knights have begun to turn their season around, coming at a great time with more Big Ten games ahead on the schedule.
“We’re starting to pitch like we’ve been expecting to,” said head coach Joe Litterio. “When we get Howie (Brey) out there on Friday, we expect him to perform every time. Then we did a good job of expanding the lead during the game, so it’s all starting to come together.”
Things got started quickly for Rutgers on Friday afternoon, as it jumped out to an early lead to run past the Hawks and win 11-1.
It scored in each of the first four innings, pounding St. Joseph’s starter Tim Ponto (1-3) for nine hits over 2 1-3 innings pitched.
Junior outfielder Mike Carter had a game-high three hits, including an RBI single in the second inning.
With the Knights leading 5-0 heading into the bottom of the fourth inning, junior designated hitter Christian Campbell broke the game open with a bases-loaded clearing three-run double to give his team an 8-0 lead.
It was plenty of offense for senior Howie Brey, the starting pitcher for Rutgers and reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Week.
After being staked to an early lead, he delivered with another top performance by striking out seven over six innings, allowing just three hits and no runs.
He improved his record to 3-3 on the season while lowering his ERA to 2.82 and is now 9-2 in 20 career games at Bainton Field.
The run support allowed him to pitch aggressively and attack hitters, which he took advantage of by pounding the strike zone and only walking one batter.
“I was looking to get my fastball going against them,” Brey said. “At the beginning of the game, I was throwing my changeup for strikes really well, but then I started throwing them in the ground so I had to go back to my fastball. It ended up going well.”
Senior second baseman John Jennings also had himself a day at the dish.
After freshman outfielder Mike Martinez hit a pinch-hit 2-run home run in the sixth inning, Jennings followed with a solo shot of his own to make it back-to-back homers and an 11-0 the Knights lead.
The second home run of the season for Jennings capped off the scoring for Rutgers, as it went on to win the game, 11-1.
He missed some games recently with an injury but has returned by immediately making an impact at the plate.
“I’m starting to feel comfortable at bat again,” Jennings said. “The coaches did a good job of making sure I got (batting practice) on the side when I was out. Every single at-bat it starts to get a little bit easier.”
The two teams were scheduled to play again at Bainton Field on Saturday, but the game was cancelled due to the weather.
They then moved to St. Joseph’s Smithson Field for a series finale on Sunday, where the Knights prevailed 6-4 in a close game.
Despite their road struggles, they played a solid game and closed the weekend with a win away from home.
Junior Kyle Driscoll (2-3) earned the start and the win for Rutgers, completing five innings and striking out seven.
He allowed just 2 earned runs and continued the trend of dominant pitching by the Knights.
Dating back to their 5-0 shutout against Fordham last week, they have allowed just 5 runs over their last three games.
On offense, Jennings contributed again with an RBI single, and the Knights finished with 10 hits in the game.
In the first win of the series, they belted 14 hits to score their 11 runs.
For the season, they have now reached double-digit hits 11 times, as the hitting and pitching are starting to blend together and result in some winning baseball.
It excites captain Jennings, who believes the best baseball is still ahead for this team.
“We’re going into games now thinking about the ways we can win the game instead of worrying about what might happen,” he said. “We have an older core of guys on this team that are keeping everyone together, and then the younger guys are starting to figure out how to win in college baseball.”