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Baseball: In-state rivals toss top pitchers in matchup

Though Rutgers head baseball coach Fred Hill said Wednesday his team did not get as many hits as he would like to have seen against Iona, the Scarlet Knights still managed 10 hits, with RBIs in clutch situations.

In the Knights’ (13-12, 5-1) past two games, they have strung together 27 hits and 21 runs, with the middle of the lineup finally producing like the veteran unit it is.

Against Seton Hall, runs will be at a premium for the Pirates and Rutgers if both starting pitchers perform as they have been.

“It should be pretty enthusiastic,” Hill said after Rutgers’ 6-3 win Wednesday against Iona. “We always have close games with them, and they are excited about playing. It should be a good weekend.”

Rob Smorol will throw for the Knights at Bainton Field this afternoon, and the senior lefthander has been dominant in his last two Big East starts.

In Smorol’s last two games — against Louisville and Villanova — the Clark, N.J., native has gone 2-0, struck out 12 batters and allowed just 11 hits and two runs in 15 innings pitched.

Smorol is currently eighth in the Big East with a 2.38 ERA and sports a 3-1 overall record for Rutgers.

If his stats hold true, Smorol will give the Knights the chance for their sixth consecutive win and keep their record above .500. Rutgers eclipsed the benchmark Wednesday in its win against the Gaels.

Though the Knights have also produced at the plate during the five-game winning streak, Seton Hall (13-13, 3-3) will arguably have one of the best offensive stoppers in the conference.

Josh Prevost, the Pirates’ ace, owns a 2-1 record this season in four starts.

Prevost is sixth in the Big East with a 2.05 ERA, owns 17 strikeouts in his limited time as a starter and has only allowed six runs all season.

Barring an uncharacteristic performance by both, today’s game should be nothing short of a pitching duel. If Smorol cannot go the distance, Rutgers has proved in their recent games the bullpen can handle the load.

Senior lefthander Rob Corsi pitched two and one third innings against Iona, allowing no runs on three hits with three strikeouts for his third save this year.

Corsi did give up three walks as well, but Hill believes Corsi, along with senior righthander Nathaniel Row, are the Knights’ best options out of the bullpen.

“We need a lefthander in that position, and he should be our guy,” Hill said. “Although he walked a couple guys, which makes it a little scary, he still did well.”

If Rutgers gets to Prevost early, it will allow confidence to set in.

Though this will be arguably one of the better pitching staffs the Knights will face all season, freshman third baseman Matt Tietz, who has been a part of their offensive production lately, believes they will be ready when their in-state rivals take the field at Bainton.

“We need to get ready for the pitchers they throw at us,” Teitz said. “We’ve been throwing the ball pretty good, so that’s a good thing and hopefully we pull it all together.”

For updates on the Rutgers baseball team, follow Bradly Derechailo on Twitter @Bradly_D. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @targumsports.

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