Rutgers jumps back into Big Ten play on the road against Iowa
After a week that saw the Rutgers baseball team win three out of four games, including two against Purdue — the team’s first two wins in Big Ten play and the team’s first conference series win this season — the Scarlet Knights (13-21, 2-4) started this week 0-2 and now head to Iowa for the weekend to play the Hawkeyes.
In a home-and-home midweek matchup against Seton Hall, Rutgers lost both games, the second one in stunning and heartbreaking fashion. Going into the bottom half of the ninth inning, the Knights were up 9-7 and were ready to come back home with a split of the series against their in-state rivals.
The Pirates would score 2 in the ninth and ended it on an inside-the-park home run in the 12th inning. Nobody has played Rutgers more than Seton Hall has and after those two losses, the Knights now only lead the series 57-55-1, dating back to 1946.
Although not the outcome Rutgers was hoping for in either game — the Pirates also won on Tuesday by a score of 9-6 at Bainton Field — the team must now regroup and get ready for Iowa.
The Hawkeyes (22-13, 5-4) are coming off of losses to Bradley University and Nebraska. But Iowa did win the series against the Cornhuskers, a team the Knights will see in early May.
Currently sitting at fifth in the conference, the Hawkeyes boast an impressive offense with a team average of .285, good enough for fourth-best in the Big Ten. They have the second-most hits and the fifth-most home runs in the conference at 340 and 31, respectively. They don’t run that much, but also don’t strike out often either. Owners of only 218 strikeouts as a team, Iowa is the second-hardest team to strike out in the Big Ten.
As for their pitching, the Hawkeyes rank near the middle of the pack with a 4.16 team ERA, led by junior right hander Nick Gallagher who owns a 2.55 ERA for the season.
On the field, Iowa ranks third in fielding percentage and has made only 28 errors, compared to 60 by Rutgers, who has already surpassed last season’s total of 59.
For the Knights, senior Mike Carter continues to rake. Over two games against Seton Hall, Carter went 7-for-11 with a home run. His three career home runs have all come this year and he currently leads the Big Ten by a wide margin with his .397 batting average and is tied for first with Iowa’s Robert Neustrom with 54 hits.
Sophomore centerfielder Jawuan Harris is second in the conference with his 19 stolen bases. Last year, as a freshman, Harris led the conference with 37 steals and ranked fifth in the nation.
Rutgers and Iowa stack up pretty evenly offensively, so for the Knights to have a chance to come away with a series win, they are going to need their starters to step up. Despite owning the worst team ERA in the conference at 6.17, Rutgers’ starters have kept their team in the game.
The two locks to start at some point over the weekend are junior right hander John O’Reilly (3-5, 5.13 ERA), who is coming off his best start of his career against Purdue in which he had a perfect game going into the seventh inning and sophomore right hander Serafino Brito (2-6, 5.21 ERA) who also got the win his last time out against Purdue.
The third spot will likely be between senior Gaby Rosa (3-3, 5.86 ERA), who last pitched in the series opener against Purdue and senior Christian Campbell (2-3, 4.34 ERA) who pitched Tuesday against Seton Hall.
Fifteen of the Knights’ final 18 games will be against the Big Ten, including this series with Iowa.
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