Rutgers hosts Iona following weekend split

<p class="p1">Head coach Joe Litterio said Kevin Baxter helped preserve Rutgers’ bullpen.</p>

Head coach Joe Litterio said Kevin Baxter helped preserve Rutgers’ bullpen.

Two midweek games were supposed to present a difficult challenge for the Rutgers baseball team.

A pair of games back-to-back on the road against Columbia in New York City and Iona in New Rochelle, N.Y., was scheduled before the Scarlet Knights (9-13, 2-3) played 11 out of 12 games in Piscataway. 

Rutgers comes home to Bainton Field a few days earlier, as the game against Columbia was dropped in favor of a two-game midweek series against Iona. The Knights will face Iona (3-12) today at 3:30 p.m. before traveling Wednesday to New Rochelle.

Rutgers is coming off of a difficult weekend in more ways than one.

The Knights were tasked with having to try and squeeze in three games on Saturday — a continuation of a postponed six-inning game from Friday and a game moved up from Sunday to avoid inclement weather.

After freshman lefthander Ryan Fleming went down with an injury after being struck in the head with a line drive, redshirt freshman lefthander Kevin Baxter had to take the workload to finish the innings Fleming otherwise would have pitched.

Baxter pitched five innings and allowed only three hits in his outing. 

Going into a tough, unexpected situation was difficult for Baxter, but an altered mindset made things easier on the mound.

“I kind of just try to take my time, as much time as I could,” Baxter said. “I just got out there and tried to stay mentally focused and prepared.”

Stepping up to take the role was vital for Rutgers as it preserved some of the other relief pitchers who would be needed later on in the series or upcoming games. 

“We had an injury in the first inning and luckily enough Kevin Baxter ate up the rest of the innings for us so we didn’t have to use our pen,” Litterio said. “With the rain coming, you are always worried about bringing a kid in, having the rain come and then losing that guy.”

One area where the Knights have not struggled all year is at the plate, and they continued their success this past weekend at Connecticut. 

Despite being outscored by the Huskies by a combined score of 16-11, Rutgers outhit UConn, 18-17. 

The Knights also rank second in the AAC in hitting this season, behind Louisville, with a .281 batting average. 

AAC batting average leader Brian O’Grady leads Rutgers. The senior first baseman is hitting .402 on the season.

For O’Grady, the team’s success on offense comes from simplifying things at the plate. 

“It was tough weather to play in all weekend, but I thought we swung it pretty well,” O’Grady said. “We just had the mindset of not trying to do too much and put the ball in play and see what happens. We did a good job of that.”


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

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