September 16, 2019 | 74° F

Rutgers eyes focus after home series

Photo by Dennis Zuraw |

Senior second baseman Nick Favatella attributes the Knights’ aggression at the plate as the main reason for offensive success this season. Rutgers is second in the AAC with a .281 batting average.

Going 1-2 against the top pitching team in the country, which also just so happens to be the No. 2 team in the most recent RPI, does not sting the Rutgers baseball team that badly.

What hurts the Scarlet Knights (11-16, 3-5) the most is how close they came to beating No. 10 Houston (25-6, 4-2) Sunday in the rubber match of a three-game series at Bainton Field.

Not being able to come away with the series win against the Cougars left something to be desired for junior outfielder Joe D’Annunzio at the plate.

Although he went 2-for-4 — scoring the teams’ only run after he reached base on a double — D’Annunzio knows the Knights have to cash in with runners in scoring position.

“It’s a tough loss. Obviously you want to score and win the game. We don’t have much to say, we had our opportunities and we got to capitalize,” D’Annunzio said after the loss on Sunday. “They’re the 10th best team in the country and they pitch. They showed that today. They held us to seven hits and one run. We had opportunities, we just have to capitalize on them.”

Rutgers is slated to face Fordham today at 6 p.m. in Lakewood, N.J. at the home of the Philadelphia Phillies’ single-A minor league baseball team, the Blue Claws.

The Rams (12-16, 4-5) present an opportunity to pick up another valuable midweek game for the Knights.

It will be a chance to showcase Rutgers’ offense, which has impressed all season long, ranking second in the AAC in batting average with a .281 percentage. Fordham sports a 4.75 ERA this season.

For senior second baseman Nick Favatella, it is all about looking for the pitch early in at-bats this year.

“I think we are a pretty strong hitting team and I think it is because we are aggressive,” Favatella said after Saturday’s doubleheader against Houston. “I think we need to stay aggressive, like we have all year, hit it early in the count, get some fastballs and we’ll be in good shape.”

Two guys who pitched impressive Sunday were redshirt freshmen righthanders Kevin Baxter and Kyle Driscoll.

Both rookies are usually midweek pitchers but earned some work on the mound Sunday — combining for eight innings — and are both unlikely to make appearances today against the Rams.

The one thing head coach Joe Litterio has stressed all season is focus.

D’Annunzio said Rutgers had it entering each game of its three-game series against the Cougars, despite facing a top-10 team in the nation. He also said that no matter who the Knights face, they are optimistic they can perform well.

Following the loss to the Cougars, Litterio reiterated what he has said all season.

“What we talk about [going out Tuesday] is being focused. We played the 10th team in the country to where we won one, and had a chance to win another one,” Litterio said. “Now we have to go out in these midweek games and play it the same way. Stay focused and continue to build this young team and keep building confidence.”

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

Tyler Karalewich

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