Rutgers refocuses, faces another ranked foe in No. 24 Florida Atlantic

<p>Junior right-handed reliever Reed Shuttle looks to rebound from his last appearance on the bump against then-No. 9 Miami this weekend against Florida Atlantic.</p>

Junior right-handed reliever Reed Shuttle looks to rebound from his last appearance on the bump against then-No. 9 Miami this weekend against Florida Atlantic.

The bats finally woke up for the Rutgers baseball team this past weekend against Old Dominion. It may have taken six games for it to happen, but the Scarlet Knights were able to combine effective pitching with timely hitting.

Now, they need to duplicate that performance and continue to support the starting pitcher, head coach Joe Litterio said. It starts this weekend when Rutgers (1-6) takes on Florida Atlantic (11-2) in the third weekend series of the year.

Earning the first win of the season will help the Knights head into this weekend, Litterio said. But No. 24 FAU presents another challenge this early in the season.

“They’re always a solid program, and they just got bumped up into the polls this week to the No. 24 team in the country,” Litterio said. “They’ve won a lot of ball games this year, and I expect a tough weekend. Getting that first win out of the way is big for us. I think we should have had three wins this year, but to be able to get across that, now we know that we can do that and we can move on.”

A combination of hitting and pitching has been the recipe for Rutgers’ success and should be moving forward. The Knights' starters combined to allow only two earned runs in 16 and one-third innings against Old Dominion.

Averaging less than two runs in their six losses to start the season did not give the Rutgers pitchers enough to work with. The support of the offense with good starts from the rotation will be the winning combination, according to junior third baseman Chris Suseck.

“I know we went a few games with a low amount of hits and only a few runs, so when we got the bats rolling that last game, the hitting became contagious,” Suseck said. “When one guy gets going, everyone else wants to hit, too. We have some good arms, and we are really relying on ours arms. We have a really good staff, and if we play good behind them, teams should be limited against us.”

Junior left-hander Howie Brey has been a rock for the Knights in the early going, cementing his position as the ace of the staff. Along with a starting rotation that has been effective, Brey has shined in his second season as the team's lead starter.

Brey has one loss on the season, but leads Rutgers with a 2.13 earned run average, he has 15 strikeouts in 12 and two-thirds innings and has a .186 batting average. 

Brey sees the same problems and acknowledged the Knights have to come together for success to happen.

“Our biggest thing is we have to play as a team,” Brey said. “In our first two weekends, when our hitting is on, our pitching is off ...(and) when our pitching is on, our hitting is off. We just have to come together, and when it finally does we will be better as a team. Sunday against Old Dominion we did that and it gives us confidence moving forward knowing that we can score that many runs.”

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

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