Rutgers stumbles out gate to open season in 0-4 hole

<p>Head Coach Joe Litterio admitted he was disappointed in the Knights performance during their weekend series in Miami. Rutgers lost all four games against the Hurricanes culminating in a 25-4 defeat.</p>

Head Coach Joe Litterio admitted he was disappointed in the Knights performance during their weekend series in Miami. Rutgers lost all four games against the Hurricanes culminating in a 25-4 defeat.

There’s only one word head coach Joe Litterio could use to describe the Rutgers baseball team’s weekend in Miami –– disappointing. And it’s hard to disagree with the skipper.

The No. 9 Hurricanes swept the Scarlet Knights in the four-game weekend series and outscored Rutgers 48-14 in the series. 

But what disappointed Litterio most was how his team left runners on base and how the Knights underperformed.

“I was disappointed,” Litterio said in a phone interview. “I thought we came out Friday night and I saw the team do what I expected –– a team that did what we are capable of doing. We didn’t play defense very good that night. The next three games were a bit tougher, especially with the way it ended [Sunday].”

One of the lone bright spots for the Knights came from their ace, Howie Brey. The junior left-hander tossed a quality start in the series opener Friday night, going six innings, allowing four hits and limiting the “U” to one earned run. Brey fanned a career-high in batters, collecting nine strikeouts in the no-decision.

The Knights did not support Brey, scoring only two runs in the matchup. Rutgers did outhit the 'Canes, 10-7, but could not convert. They stranded eight runners on base, including seven in scoring position. 

Rutgers also muffed some fielding chances. Those three errors that led to five runs being scored by Miami.

Brey struggled to find any positives on the mound to take from the weekend in Miami, but knows exactly what Rutgers needs to do to improve. What worked well for the Middletown South High School (N.J.) product was his unique release and his delivery to the plate, he said.

“My fastball was working really well –– I threw 80 percent fastballs. I used this quick delivery to the plate, too. It was really just confusing the hitters,” Brey said. “We weren’t afraid of them because their name was Miami, but we need to work on throwing strikes. We had a tough time getting ahead of batters. We need to work on throwing strike one.”

On Sunday, in the Knights' 25-4 loss in the series finale, sophomore shortstop Christian Campbell earned his first action on the mound of his collegiate career pitching the eighth inning. 

Although Campbell allowed one run in the outing, he collected a strikeout and will have to get used to the process of coming out of the field to pitch late in games.

It was not too difficult to adjust, Campbell admitted. The only adjustment he needed to make was with his off-speed pitches and breaking balls after throwing straight balls across the diamond all day as the starting shortstop.

“It was great,” Campbell said. “We were down by a bunch of runs, so all I had to do was throw strikes for my team. It’s not too bad. The coaches had me go out there, warm up and just get used to the mound. I didn’t have to get warmed up too much. I just had to get my changeup and curveball ready to throw on the mound.”

Litterio admitted that Rutgers still needs some time to get into form and would benefit from more weekend series. The lineup and pitching rotation is also far from perfect and where he wants and expects it to be.

“I think we are still going to need a week, or even two more weeks, to see what happens with the pitching staff,” Litterio said. “Howie and [Gaby Rosa] both pitched well, Howie especially, but the middle games weren’t pitched very well. So we have to see who fits in those roles.”

For updates on the Rutgers baseball team, follow @TylerKaralewich and @TargumSports on Twitter.

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