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Rutgers pitching falls short in ODU series

The Rutgers baseball team’s approach to its weekend series against Old Dominion was to bring balance to an already impressive hitting team and back it up with an effective pitching staff.

That balance was the key to success against the Monarchs, said head coach Joe Litterio.

“Balance is everything. It means everything,” Litterio said before practice last week. “You can’t win without good pitching. They keep us in the game.”

The pitching staff struggled to find consistency in the last two games of the series.

The Scarlet Knights dropped the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, 12-3, and the final game Sunday, 12-6.

Rutgers’ (3-6) pitching allowed 22 earned runs in the remaining two games, allowing 26 hits.

Litterio said the staff still needs some work.

“The last two games, we didn’t pitch well,” Litterio said. “It’s still early in the season, and we are still looking for guys who will eventually step up and find their roles. That didn’t happen this weekend. We got in situations where we couldn’t get the right outs at the right time.”

Despite the difficulties on the mound at times, Rutgers remained strong swinging the bat hard.

Senior Brian O’Grady led the Knights’ offensive effort.

O’Grady hit 7-for-12, scored five runs and recorded two RBI last weekend.

The team’s leader in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage — with averages of .471/.794/.486, respectively — found his momentum at the plate this season.

“I just feel real comfortable at the plate right now,” O’Grady said. “I’m just being aggressive and finding really good pitches to hit. I’m just on right now. I just want to relax, not do too much and it’s been working out for me. Balls have been finding spots to land.”   

The Knights found balance in their first game Saturday, beating Old Dominion (8-4), 4-2.

In the top of bottom of the seventh inning, after already recording an out, sophomore lefthander Howie Brey was pulled after an impressive outing.

The Middletown, N.J., native started out the weekend pitching effectively for the Knights.

Brey pitched six and one-third innings and extended his scoreless innings streak to 15 and one-third straight innings. In his second win of the season, Brey only allowed three hits and two walks.

For Brey, the success stemmed from controlling his pitches and limiting walks.

“In my first start, it was tough finding the control on my fastball and finding the strike zone,” Brey said. “As a starting pitcher, that kind of stuff is important. You have to get in the groove and pitch to get ready to throw six or seven innings. That’s the biggest adjustment — commanding my fastball and throwing strikes.”

Redshirt freshman lefthander Max Herrmann and junior right hander Jon Young came into and had effective relief appearances.

Herrmann only needed 18 pitches for five outs, and Young picked up his second save of the season.

For Litterio, it still comes back to the multi-dimensional attack needed between offense, defense and pitching, which the Knights need to improve.

“We had a couple of innings where we gave them more than three outs on a couple errors and that came back to bite us also,” Litterio said. “I think we swung the bats real well this weekend, and I think we will do that most of the time this year. But we have to do a much better job on the mound and on defense.”

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