Offense awakens in Rutgers' first victory
As of Sunday morning, the Rutgers baseball team had not won a game. The Scarlet Knights started off the season with six-straight losses after two games into the Old Dominion series.
The games have been close. Aside from a 25-4 shellacking against then-No. 9 Miami in the opening weekend, opponents outscored the Knights by a little over three runs per game, but costly errors and a lack of timely hitting thwarted any chance at wins over the course of the first six.
The losing skid ended Sunday afternoon in Myrtle Beach as the bats woke up in Rutgers’ 13-9 victory against Old Dominion, but it didn’t come easy.
With a runner on in the bottom of the 8th inning, sophomore left-hander Max Herrmann entered the game to hold the Knights lead at 9-5.
A throwing error allowed the Monarchs’ Matt Cogen to reach base and Herrmann followed it up with a hit-by-pitch. With the bases loaded, Jason McMurray singled to right center and two runs came around to score. Another run would come across on a fielder’s choice to bring the tally to 9-8.
Herrmann showed poise, striking out the final two batters of the inning and brought Rutgers to the ninth inning where the team would tack on four more runs. After senior closer Jon Young finished the win, head coach Joe Litterio was impressed with Herrmann’s resolve and was relieved after Rutgers’ first win of the season.
But the skipper expected a bit more.
“I’m happy we got out of there with the win — that first win of the season is tough to get,” Litterio said. “We had one slip away (Saturday). At one point in our game (Sunday) we were leading, 7-0, and then all of a sudden, when something bad happens the night before in the early part of the season, it’s in the back of everybody’s mind. They got it to 9-8 with first and third with one out. Max did a great job striking out two guys in a row to preserve it and we added on in the ninth.”
The offense struggled to support the quality innings posted by the starting pitchers in the first two games of the series — Rutgers starters allowed two earned runs in 16 and one-third innings. Junior left-handers Howie Brey and Mark McCoy both pitched at least five innings and limited the amount runners who got on base.
Brey finished with six strikeouts, two earned runs and four hits in six and two-third innings. The Knights' offense failed to back him up with no runs and only two hits for his service. McCoy allowed six hits, struck out four and surrendered no runs. Rutgers scored two runs for McCoy, but stranded seven runners on base.
In game three of the series, things changed for the Knights. Hitting came a little easier, errors were spread out and runs were easy to come by — 13 runs scored is a season-high for Rutgers.
The change was the approach at the plate, according to sophomore outfielder Tom Marcinczyk. The Middlesex, New Jersey, native led Rutgers with three RBI and two runs scored to go with his two hits.
“I was being more patient up at the plate,” Marcinczyk said. “(Saturday) I was chasing everything. I was definitely waiting for my pitch to hit, getting into hitter’s counts and it was working for me. We were all on the same page today — pitching and hitting all came together today. We were comfortable at the plate and we gave comfort to our pitchers. Everyone was relaxed.”
Starting for the Knights Sunday was sophomore right-hander Kyle Driscoll, who is competing for the final spot in the rotation behind Brey and McCoy. Driscoll made the most of his opportunity, striking out five and allowing zero earned runs in four innings of work.
Although he didn’t pitch longer into the game — his pitch count was high, according to Litterio — it’s a small price to pay for Rutgers first win of the season.
“I was a little disappointed to come out. I always want to throw more,” Driscoll said with a laugh. “The coaches always know what’s best for the team and everything worked out. It takes a lot of weight off our shoulders. I feel like now we can just relax, play the game like we know we can and get a bunch more.”
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