Rutgers bounces back from 3-game skid
A normal February 28th at Rutgers University does not usually consist of baseball. For the Rutgers baseball team, most days in February consist of bullpen sessions, taking ground balls and hitting in the batting cages all inside the new Fred Hill Training Complex. However, Tuesday was not a normal day.
Coming off a series sweep at the hands of No. 13 Virginia over the weekend, the Scarlet Knights (2-5) had no time to sulk as they hosted Wagner on Tuesday afternoon for the program’s earliest home game in its 147-year history. They made sure of it, too, as the start time was pushed forward an hour due to inclement weather expected later in the day.
“We love playing here at Bainton (Field),” said senior starting pitcher Christian Campbell. “It’s great to get out here within the first couple of weeks. We’re usually on the road for the first five or six weeks — the last three years or so now — but getting out here, getting the (win) and playing at home with great weather and great fans is just a fun time.”
The Seahawks took an early lead scoring a run in the top of the second inning, but Rutgers responded emphatically, putting up a crooked number and scoring four runs in the bottom of the third — a lead it would not relinquish for the rest of the game.
The Knights went on to score in three of the final five innings — one in the fourth, two in fifth and two in the eighth — and won by a final score of 9-2.
This time, Rutgers got the win without the help of the long ball, something head coach Joe Litterio thinks his team will need to do more of this season to win games, especially at home.
“I’m glad that we can put up a nine run (game) without hitting a home run because at Bainton (Field), that’s kind of what you have to do around here,” he said. “The ball doesn’t really travel that far so you need to put some in the gaps and I think we did that very well. We got a couple of big two out hits to expand the lead which is always great.”
The Knights wouldn’t need it, as Campbell (1-0) was masterful on the mound. Normally the starting first baseman, Campbell threw seven innings giving up four hits and two runs while striking out four and walking none. As the designated hitter (DH), he went 1-4 with two runs batted in (RBI).
The senior veteran admitted it isn’t always easy transitioning from the field to the mound, but is ready to do whatever his coach asks of him.
“It’s tough getting on the mound, but I get my work in,” Campbell said. “I felt really loose today, that’s one key, and I had everything working. It’s hard moving back and forth, but I get it done."
He sure did, and his coach took notice as well.
“I loved the fact that he attacked the hitters,” Litterio said. “He came out throwing strikes – no walks, four strikeouts (through) seven innings – very efficient.”
The rest of the team also played well, as this was really a great team win. Sophomore center fielder and leadoff man Jawuan Harris went 2-5 with a double and a triple. Senior first baseman Mike Carter finished the day going 2-4 with an RBI and a run scored and sophomore left fielder Luke Bowerbank went 1-3 with two RBI’s and a run scored.
Freshman Eric Reardon came on for Campbell in the eighth inning, surrendering two hits and a walk to load the bases. A ground ball right back to the pitcher ended that threat as Rutgers turned a nifty 1-2-3 double play. Sophomore Ryan Wares finished things off with an inning of work.
For the most part, the bullpen got a much needed day off after pitching a lot of innings in Virginia.
“To be able to come (out) after a long weekend and have a guy to be able to put out there and take us into the seventh inning was great,” Litterio said. “Especially after the amount of pitchers we used over the weekend. (Campbell) was very efficient with his pitching and gave us a chance to get the lead.”
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