After taking one away from Miami, Rutgers looks to steal series from Virginia
A week after beating No. 17 Miami in the series finale of its season opener, a feat that has not been accomplished in nearly six years, the Rutgers baseball team looks to take its newfound confidence to Charlottesville as it takes on another Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) powerhouse in No. 13 Virginia (4-0), the 2015 national champions.
The Scarlet Knights (1-2) beat Miami in emphatic fashion on Sunday as they outscored the Hurricanes, 17-6, the most runs scored and the biggest margin of victory ever recorded against Miami. The 17-run performance is a sneak peek at what this Rutgers offense is made of.
“We’re extremely powerful and you can really not underestimate us,” said senior outfielder Tom Marcinczyk. “Going in there we lost two out of the three, and then that game we really proved ourselves. From batters one to nine, they just really dug in there and battled and kept battling. We had a few strikeouts but we really overcame a lot.”
Their first win in 16 games and only their 13th victory in 62 total meetings against Miami, the Knights had time to revel in their victory.
Senior first baseman Mike Carter led the team with four runs batted in against the Hurricanes and said that the series finale victory will help them as they prepare for another nationally ranked team.
“It was good,” Carter said. “I was just happy the way we came together as a team. We’ve been trying to beat them every time we go down there and to finally get a win was a good way to go out and a good way to go into next week.”
Despite the big win, head coach Joe Litterio wants his team to prepare just as they have been doing during pre-season.
“Just preparing for the weekend,” Litterio said. “The same way we went into Miami. We’re not trying to overlook what we did at Miami but that’s done with, that’s in the past. Now we got to get ready for a very solid Virginia team.”
Marcinczyk, now a four-year starter for the Knights, has seen nearly everything during his time at the University, except for a victory against Miami going into last weekend.
When asked whether a big win against a tough nationally ranked team can inspire confidence during future games, Marcinczyk seemed to agree.
“It definitely raises our confidence,” he said. “Our confidence level is through the roof right now and we know UVA is going to be a very strong team, just as Miami was, pitching-wise and hitting-wise so I think we are prepared.”
Jawuan Harris is an example of young talent, as the sophomore center fielder is primed for a big season and played at an all-Big Ten level against the Hurricanes.
With a lot of young talent — not just limited to Harris — on this 2017 roster being put straight to the test against a perennial powerhouse, Litterio has certainly begun to take notice of some of the younger players at his disposal.
“I think they are bringing something to the team that we didn’t have,” he said. “A little bit of consistency from our freshmen is great because the older guys, they blend well together and it just kind of springboards the team a little bit when you have young guys doing it.”
Of course, because of the quality of players at certain positions, some Rutgers players have had to play out of position for the good of the team.
Carter is one of those players, as he is making the transition from outfield to first base.
“I just look at it as playing on the field,” Carter said. “I don’t really try to make it too big, like a big transition and just be athletic and get the outs and make the routine plays.”
When asked about some of the goals he has for his team entering the season, Litterio said that due to the longevity of a baseball season, setting high goals too early can throw a team off, so he likes to limit the goal setting in the Knights' locker room.
Instead, he knows if his team plays the way it is capable of playing, it will be where it needs to be at season’s end.
“We know if we just take care of what we can take care of, everything else is going to reach its potential,” he said. “Without making goals we know if we go about our business the right way and take care of each game then we will meet all the goals that we haven’t made, if you want to put it that way.”
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