Pitcher shows poise despite recent results

<p>Junior catcher Jeff Melillo, the Knights’ likely No. 3 hitter today against Rider, batted last season near the botom of the order.</p>

Junior catcher Jeff Melillo, the Knights’ likely No. 3 hitter today against Rider, batted last season near the botom of the order.

Measuring a pitcher’s success by wins and losses is not as common as it used to be. The numbers could not be less applicable for pitcher Ryan Fasano of the Rutgers baseball team.

The senior righthander has stepped up to take junior pitcher Tyler Gebler’s spot in the rotation and done so with a 4.50 ERA.

But credit two losses in his 0-3 record to the Knights’ bats. Fasano has been on in his past two starts. The hitting has not.

Fasano takes the mound today for the Scarlet Knights’ home opener against Rider at Bainton Field.

Even a team with Rider’s 5-12 record can win on any given day, so the Knights need Fasano and their bats to be on their games.

After a 17-hit game Sunday against No. 14 Stetson, the latter is more likely.

“I am seeing some really positive at-bats,” said head coach Fred Hill, “but we still need to continue to develop and do the little things necessary to bring in runs, especially in close games.”

Fasano was the victim of one of those close games Friday in the series opener. The Stony Point, N.Y., native allowed two runs in seven innings.

Even then the Knights did not score a run in the 3-0 loss, but Fasano was used to the result after his previous start March 9 against Florida Atlantic.

Fasano stayed on the mound for eight innings, striking out four and walking only one. He allowed five runs, but the Knights only recorded four hits in the 5-2 loss.

A spot starter of Fasano’s caliber is a luxury for the Knights (8-9), who are building around their deep pitching staff.

“You can never have too much pitching in baseball,” Hill said.

But the Knights need the hitting to supplant that, and they have been a lineup in transition.

Junior catcher Jeff Melillo hit toward the bottom of the order a season ago. Senior third baseman Pat Kivlehan was on the football team.

Entering the Rider matchup, Melillo and Kivlehan will hit third and fourth, respectively. Like the rest of the Knights lineup, adjustments are vital.

“I knew that in cleanup, I’d have to hit a lot better than the eighth [spot],” Kivlehan said. “I just had to make sure I got my foot down earlier.”

Rider freshman pitcher David Hafer makes the first start of his career against the Knights. In eight relief appearances, Hafer sports an 8.00 ERA with 11 hits and seven walks allowed.

Fasano is the more proven pitcher on paper, but Hafer’s inexperience could spell an upset for the Knights if he finds his legs in the starting rotation.

But after an eight-game road trip in which the Knights won five, Hill said Rutgers has momentum on its side.

“We went against three quality teams, and to pull out five wins is great,” he said. “Playing against these caliber of teams will only help once we get back home and enter the Big East part of our schedule.”

The Broncs are the Knights’ final test before Big East play begins Friday against Seton Hall.

Despite the Broncs’ underwhelming season, that game is the final time for the Knights to experiment with their roster.

Putting Fasano in the rotation has been a successful experiment. Now the Knights need their lineup changes to work out.

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