Rutgers defense leaks, offense lacks in blowout losses
Sporting a 1-6 record through its first two weekends back on the baseball diamond, the Rutgers baseball team knew it was up against a tall task.
Going up against the No. 24 team in the country for a three-game series at Florida Atlantic, the Scarlet Knights looked to build off of some recent momentum.
Rutgers earned its first win of the young season after stealing the finale of its three-game tilt in Myrtle Beach versus Old Dominion, in a 13-9 slugfest.
Despite a bit of a plot twist thrown in their plans after their home opener against Fairleigh Dickinson was canceled due to inclement weather, the Knights set their sights on progression as they went head-on into battle against a top-25 program from the south.
But things didn't go as planned.
The Knights (1-9) were swept right out of Boca Raton, losing by a combined score of 40-12 in three games. The lineup failed to support the effort of its starting pitchers, prolonging a problem that has plagued the team in the early going of its 2015 campaign. The Owls also outhit Rutgers, 42-20.
After dropping the first two games of the series, sophomore right-hander Kyle Driscoll took the mound on Sunday looking to stop the bleeding and carry his team back into the win column.
That didn't happen.
Instead, the 6-foot-6 flamethrower was knocked around FAU Baseball Stadium. He lasted only two innings before giving way to the bullpen, tagged for seven earned runs on eight hits.
Florida Atlantic (14-2) slugged 18 hits on the afternoon on its way to a 12-4 win to complete the sweep. Sophomore outfielder Tom Marcincyzk and junior outfielder Vinny Zarillo paced the Knights at the plate in the middle of the order, combining to go 4-for-7 with one run and one RBI.
That result came two days after the Owls set a program record with 18 runs in an 18-5 beatdown to set the tone for the weekend.
In that series opener, junior left-hander Howie Brey didn't make it past the third inning. The ace of the Rutgers pitching staff struggled with his command, walking four and striking out two. Florida Atlantic scattered six hits to notch nine runs.
Head coach Joe Litterio's call to the bullpen yielded little help.
Sophomore Kevin Baxter entered to relieve Brey in the fourth, but failed to record a single out. The Owls continued their offensive assault, shelling the Knights' right-hander for four runs on two hits.
Baxter didn't exactly help himself by opening up the inning with back-to-back walks — and Florida Atlantic made it hurt. The Owls cashed in on a gift with runners on first and second and no outs to begin the inning, ripping four consecutive hits before Rutgers retreated to its bullpen again.
On Saturday, the trend continued. Despite a bulldog effort by junior right-hander Mark McCoy to battle his way through the opening five and two-thirds innings of the ballgame, the Knights couldn't follow up with support.
McCoy yielded three earned runs on seven hits, fanning three and walking three to keep Rutgers in it down just 4-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth, but Florida Atlantic broke out.
Sophomore left-hander Maxx Hermann got the Knights out of the jam during his relief appearance in the sixth, but walked his way right into one when he came back out for the seventh. He couldn't record an out, ending the day with two walks and one strikeout as the Owls went on to break the game open in a six-run inning.
Four out of the five runs surrendered by Hermann were earned.
Despite the struggles from the mound, the Knights failed to put up much of a fight at the plate. They have hit a combined team batting average of .213 on the season to this point while averaging fewer than seven hits per game.
Prior to the series, Litterio said Rutgers needed to continue to support their starting pitchers, but knew Florida Atlantic would be a tough team to play.
With a poor outing against the Owls, the Knights will look to rebound against Iona in its first midweek game of the season home at Bainton Field. Rutgers split the season series against the Gaels last season, winning its home game, 7-5.
For updates on the Rutgers baseball team, follow @TylerKaralewich and @TargumSports on Twitter.
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