Rutgers faces top pitching staff

<p>Junior outfielder Joe D’Annunzio said Rutgers needs to work on all phases of the game and perform better in the field while they are hitting, base-running and plating the runners in scoring position.</p>

Junior outfielder Joe D’Annunzio said Rutgers needs to work on all phases of the game and perform better in the field while they are hitting, base-running and plating the runners in scoring position.

There seem to be as many disadvantages to playing 12 games in less than three weeks than there are benefits this season for the Rutgers baseball team.

While the Scarlet Knights have procured the opportunity to start and pitch the multitude of freshman, or first-year pitchers, to gain valuable experience on the mound, they also have to face the fact that managing their pitching staff becomes more difficult.

Rutgers’ offense has benefitted from consistently swinging the bat well and face many diverse pitchers, but the Knights’ defense has struggled from not being able to work on the little things in practice.

What seemed like a forgone advantage at the beginning of the season — being able to only practice fielding inside the Bubble due to inclement weather — has turned into something Rutgers has had issues with.

The Knights have committed 31 errors this season, and nine came during the four-straight games without a practice.

Those errors are not something head coach Joe Litterio allows and Rutgers worked on them in its first practice in more than a week yesterday.

“[The errors] are something that stems from not being able to practice a lot,” Litterio said after the team’s three-error’s to Iona Tuesday. “We’ve been playing all of the time. It’s been tough to get outside and practice since we’ve been on the road. I think we have to clean a lot of that up. We’ve been making too many errors the last few games to where it has been hurting us.”

The practice comes in the wake of the Knights’ first three-game weekend home series.

Rutgers will play the second ranked team in RPI and the nation’s top pitching team in earned run average in No. 10 Houston this weekend at Bainton Field.

The Knights struggled Wednesday with producing quality at-bats against Iona. Although they had some offensive support, it was not enough for Litterio.

“Yes, nine hits and four runs is good, but I’m very disappointed at the fact that we didn’t have quality at-bats throughout the game, especially in the last four innings,” Litterio said after the loss to Iona Wednesday. “Our bats were sloppy, and we didn’t get guys on base to put more pressure on them.”

Rutgers will aim to hit the ball more effectively in its first matchup today against the Cougars.

That process began yesterday during one of the team’s first morning practices at Bainton Field this season.

“We’re going to work hard on everything, all three phases of the game,” junior outfielder Joe D’Annunzio said on Wednesday. “Base-running, hitting, fielding and emphasizing scoring the runner from third base are what we are going to focus on. We have to make sure we capitalize on our opportunities.”

The day between games yesterday was designed to be a heavy workload for the Knights in practice.

“It’s going to be a hard practice. We have to clean a lot of things up,” Litterio said. “We haven’t had the opportunity in a while to practice, so tomorrow we have to clean things up.”

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

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