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Rutgers overcomes indoor practice for Florida

<p>Acting head coach Joe Litterio believes the scores do not reflect how well the Knights swung the bat this past weekend. Rutgers has been isolated to indoor training.</p>

Acting head coach Joe Litterio believes the scores do not reflect how well the Knights swung the bat this past weekend. Rutgers has been isolated to indoor training.

It was not the start to the season that the Rutgers baseball team had anticipated.

It was not anywhere near close to what it thought it would accomplish in its opening weekend.

For starters, the Scarlet Knights (0-4) were outhit, 40-25, and outscored, 30-11, in their opening series against Florida International in Miami this past weekend.

Those offensive numbers, along with a .208 batting average, .242 slugging percentage and .302 on-base percentage, are a misnomer. According to acting head coach Joe Litterio, those numbers are not the best indication of how well the team was actually hitting.

“I thought we did hit the ball pretty well [this weekend],” Litterio said. “The scores didn’t actually show that on the scoreboard, but coming out of the gym, the winter and a time where we couldn’t get any live hitting, we actually hit the ball well. We had guys like Tommy Marcinzyk, a freshman, hit four balls on the nose and had nothing to show for it. I think it was great for this weekend.”

While the Knights are not making any excuses, a case can be made that Florida schools have a distinct advantage in the beginning of the season.

Playing in a state where weather is better suited for February practices helps with preparing an offense sooner rather than later, according to senior outfield Lou Clemente.

“Obviously, FIU, being down in Florida, have the advantage [with hitting],” Clemente said. “They were able to inter-squad scrimmage the week before [our game]. We are doing the best we can, but Jacksonville has the [same] advantage for this weekend too, being down in Florida.”

Rutgers will travel to face Jacksonville (1-3) tomorrow night for a three-game series.

The Knights are training the best way they can to prepare for the Dolphins and other southern schools, despite being relegated to the Bubble indoor practice facility and batting cages located inside the Louis Brown Athletic Center.

For Rutgers, that means getting in the hitting reps any and every way it can.

“We hit in the RAC every day and we are doing the best we can. I think we are doing a good job,” Clemente said. “We see live pitchers maybe three times a week. We hit off the tee, hit live off of pitchers and we take batting practice, so we do everything we can. I think we hit the ball well this weekend, but didn’t translate into the game.”

While hitting had mixed results this weekend, Litterio deemed pitching a success, as he was able to get a better gauge of the young staff and rotation entering the series against Jacksonville.

Among the 13 Knights making their first career appearance was redshirt freshman Kyle Driscoll. The righthander pitched four innings in relief and allowed only two hits and one earned run.

While not everyone performed up to par in the bullpen, Driscoll has confidence in his teammates moving forward.

“FIU is a good hitting team and tough to go against. Some situations are just tougher to pitch in than others,” Driscoll said. “We have a good staff here but we are very young. We are a good team and can pull through. We just have to get that experience and get some of the nervousness out of the way.”

With quality outings from sophomore Howie Brey, redshirt freshmen Kevin Baxter and Driscoll, Litterio is optimistic about this weekend against the Dolphins.

“It’s great. You see a lot of good things when you see those guys do what they did,” Litterio said. “They went out and gave us a chance to win. Two of those four games we could’ve won, and should’ve won. They kept us in the ball game as long as they could on a pitch count.”

For updates on the Rutgers baseball team, follow Tyler Karalewich on Twitter @TylerKaralewich. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.

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