Knights gear up for Omaha road trip
For Rutgers head baseball coach Fred Hill, there was a big takeaway from the Scarlet Knights’ 9-5 victory Wednesday against Wagner.
“At the plate, it was good to see contributions from everyone,” Hill said after the win. “We had an aggressive approach and jumped out early again.”
The Knights had 11 hits against the Seahawks, but more importantly, they made contact with runners in scoring position — a lesson Hill has preached since practices began in January.
Freshman reliever Howie Brey knows how important it was for Rutgers to capture its two midweek games before it embarks on its longest road trip of the season.
“It’s huge,” Brey said. “These two wins are big going into this weekend. We need to get our confidence back after that series sweep by Pitt. After this weekend we have more conference games, so we need to get our confidence back.”
The Knights (20-19, 8-7) will play in three individual games in Omaha, Neb., beginning today against Oklahoma State (28-11).
The Cowboys are winners of four out of their last seven, including taking two out of three against Kansas State last weekend.
Oklahoma features slugging first baseman Tanner Krietemeier, who leads the Cowboys with a .346 batting average as well as in RBI with 33 and hits with 56.
While the Cowboys will be one of the more talented teams the Knights will face all season, it will do so with an improved bullpen.
The unit will feature senior righthander Nathaniel Roe, who showed improvement in his last appearance against a Delaware team that features one of the better lineups in the country.
Roe lasted two-and-one-third innings in the 4-2 victory against the Blue Hens, collecting three strikeouts in his third save of the season.
The performance solidifies one everyday player’s confidence in the Plainfield, N.J., native.
“He’s a guy I trust out there at all times,” said sophomore leftfielder Vinny Zarrillo. “It’s good to see him perform.”
Zarrillo will be one of four Knights to take a .300 or better average to Nebraska, as Zarillo leads the team with a .353 mark.
Senior rightfielder Steve Zavala is also one of those four, but he is more interested in getting as many wins as possible in this three-game swing. Rutgers will also play Creighton (22-9) and Hofstra (21-21) on the road trip.
But two midweek wins off of a three-game series loss to Pittsburgh can do nothing but help.
“Our mental approach to the game was great these past two games,” Favatella said. “We came in loose and we got back to the basics which we need to do in Omaha. It’s strange to have the week off [from Big East play] but if you put it in perspective and realize you get to do play at the College World series stadium, you have to forget about it.”
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