Rutgers thrashes Wagner through solid pitching, efficient offense
A pair of midweek games prior to welcoming in Penn State for a series this weekend seemed like a potential trap for the Rutgers baseball team, but the Scarlet Knights saw things differently.
After shaking off a slow start and beating Delaware State at Bainton Field on Tuesday, the Knights (18-19, 3-6) responded with another win on Wednesday by traveling to Wagner (10-23. 5-11) and shutting out the Seahawks, 8-0.
The Knights have now won 9 of their last 14 games, and are playing solid all-around baseball as they progress through the heart of their season.
“I thought we came out with a lot of energy today,” said head coach Joe Litterio. “It started a bit slow yesterday, but we came out differently today, and it showed on the scoreboard early on. We attacked early from the first inning and had guys getting on base, and were able to give our pitchers some room.”
Freshman pitcher Serafino Brito (5-2) earned the start for Rutgers, making his seventh start of his first season playing collegiate baseball.
The Oakland, New Jersey, native thoroughly dominated in his outing and gave the Knights exactly the type of lengthy performance they were searching for after the bullpen pitched 5.2 innings the previous day.
He pitched six innings and went through a stretch of retiring 17 of 18 batters, striking out four and allowing just one hit.
When he exited the game, Rutgers was ahead 8-0, which proved to be the final score.
His recent performances have not gone unnoticed by the coaches, who feel comfortable using him in nearly any situation in any game, as evidenced by his relief appearances.
“Brito has been pitching outstanding for us,” Littero said. “He probably could’ve went all nine innings today, but we were watching his pitch count. He was outstanding and filled up the zone by commanding all of his pitches.”
Brito himself has begun to feel more comfortable adjusting to college baseball with each chance he gets to go to the mound.
He lowered his ERA to 3.50 with his performance, and believes that he will get better moving forward with each appearance.
It is natural for a freshman to play better as they become more acclimated to the collegiate style of play and schedule, which is what Brito hopes will allow him to continue improving and maintain this momentum.
“In the first inning, I started a little shaky, but then I started to settle down,” he said. “I was hitting my spots after that and that was good because I was starting to feel more comfortable out there. Hopefully I can keep doing that.”
After Brito exited following his six shutout innings, freshman James Torres and junior Colin Bohnert combined for the final three innings of work and held onto the shutout.
Starting for Wagner was Danny Marsh, and the Knights were able to jump on him from the early going of the game.
Picking up from where he left off with a 3-RBI performance in the win over Delaware State, junior outfielder Tom Marcinczyk put the Knights on the board in the first inning with an RBI single to score fellow outfielder Mike Carter.
The hit came with two-outs in the inning, and gave the Knights a 1-0 lead.
After a couple of shutout innings from Brito, Rutgers again charged ahead with some offense in the third inning as senior first baseman Chris Suseck launched a sacrifice-fly to push his team’s lead to 2-0.
The big inning came in the top of the fourth, when the Knights broke through for 3 runs and a 5-0 lead.
Carter ripped a 2-run single and another run scored on an error on the same play to make it a 3-run inning, and the Rutgers cruised from there.
The Knights later added 3 more runs to solidify a quality offensive performance in which they recorded 10 hits.
The trip to Staten Island was a familiar sight for Litterio, who was the head coach at Wagner for 12 seasons.
He is the all-time winningest coach in the history of their program, as he recorded 240 victories during his time there before coming to coach Rutgers.
But he stressed to the team that this was just another game on the schedule to try to win, and his players emulated that mentality with a convincing victory on the road.
“It was a good win for us and it gives us some momentum moving forward,” Carter said. “We take each game seriously and as a chance to get us rolling in the future, so it was important for us to win this game and see if we can build from it.”