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Sophomore returns to Pittsburgh as reliever

<p>Sophomore reliever Rob Corsi returns to Pittsburgh, where he played his freshman season before Duquesne cut its program. The Oceanport,'N.J., native returned home to play for the Scarlet Knights, who face Pitt this weekend in a Big East series.</p>

Sophomore reliever Rob Corsi returns to Pittsburgh, where he played his freshman season before Duquesne cut its program. The Oceanport,'N.J., native returned home to play for the Scarlet Knights, who face Pitt this weekend in a Big East series.

It's only fitting that Rob Corsi returns to familiar Pittsburgh today when the Rutgers baseball team kicks off a three-game set with Pitt. For the sophomore reliever, being thrown into any situation is the name of the game, which Corsi learned in the offseason when he transitioned from the starting rotation to the bullpen.

But one could argue his training for the unpredictable began in Pittsburgh a year ago, when the Duquesne freshman learned just prior to the season that his school was discontinuing collegiate baseball.

"We found out a month before the season started, so they didn't give us very much time," Corsi said. "It was pretty tough because we grew pretty tough as a team, everyone became pretty close. We tried to play and kind of make the last year memorable."

The 6-foot Corsi quickly got on the phone, calling former coaches in an attempt to get his foot in the doorway of another collegiate program.

Following the announcement about a month before the season that baseball would no longer exist at the school, Duquesne treated its players as if they were high school seniors, allowing all those who planned on playing elsewhere the following season to enter the recruiting field.

Though by that time it was late in the recruiting process, Corsi's connections got the attention of local N.J. schools, namely Rutgers and head coach Fred Hill.

"I talked to my old coaches in high school, my old AAU coaches, anyone that I thought would have a connection to other coaches," Corsi said. "They got on the phone with some local schools and Rutgers was one of them. Soon enough it turned out they were looking for another arm and I kind of wanted to be closer to home."

The N.J. native joined Hill's pitching staff in the offseason looking for a clean slate after a forgettable year at Duquesne in his rookie college baseball season.

Corsi went 1-4 with a 5.76 ERA in seven starts for the Dukes, a team that finished 16-40 with just four wins on the road.

Essentially joining the Scarlet Knights as a castaway, it was initially unclear how Corsi would fit into the staff.

But after an offseason of learning the tricks of the trade of relief pitching from sophomore starter Rob Smorol and pitching coach Bobby Brownlie, Corsi is now an irreplaceable component of the Knights staff.

"I was expecting him to come in as a middle relief guy or situational lefty," said the lefthanded Smorol, who pitched out of the bullpen last year for the Knights. "He has really turned out to be our main guy in the bullpen and basically just about our best pitcher right now."

The numbers don't lie.

In 15 appearances, Corsi owns a 2.41 ERA and leads the bullpen in strikeouts (16) and innings pitched (18 2/3).

Time after time, Hill relied on Corsi's left arm to shut the door on opposing bats and the Oceanport, N.J., native always exudes excitement when on the mound.

"He is a very competitive person," Hill said. "He has been a great addition to the pitching staff and to our team. He has a lot of energy and has been strong for us all season [and] has only improved his performance with each outing."

That excitement, though, is not something that Corsi learned after Duquesne disbanded — it is simply a part of his game.

"I don't know if I do it on purpose. I guess it's just one of those things where I have so much fun being out there and that's what I love to do," Corsi said. "I think we should all be who we are and have a good time and that's kind of how I go into it every day."

With a recent injury to sophomore closer Jerry Elsing, Hill admitted that Corsi is expected to assume the team's closing role for the second half of the season.

But based on his year of acclimation to a new setting and a new role, it is only fitting that Corsi fills out today's game roster against Big East foe Pittsburgh in yet another new role.

"I think his mentality is perfect for it," said Smorol, who garnered Big East honors earlier this week. "I think that's what he's built for that kind of role. He's been handling it very well and he's going to continue to handle it very well and he's going to step in there and be huge for us come Big East playoff time."

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