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Rutgers swept in 3-game series against No. 4 Miami

<p>Senior second baseman John Jennings reached base safely in each of his four at bats and hit a home run in Rutgers’ loss to Miami on Friday.</p>

Senior second baseman John Jennings reached base safely in each of his four at bats and hit a home run in Rutgers’ loss to Miami on Friday.

The baseball season is a long journey at any level, and especially in college.

Opening weekend is meant to work out the kinks, with the hopes winning results will follow shortly after.

The Rutgers baseball team opened its season with three straight losses on the road against No. 4 Miami (3-0), but played some close games against one of the nation’s best teams.

The winning results weren’t there in this first series for the Knights, but they were pleased to return to the field for competitive action against another opponent.

“Going down and playing a team like that, especially coming from the north, is a tall task, but I was very happy with the way we responded to the first two games,” said head coach Joe Litterio. “Those were close ballgames that could’ve went either way, but we just came up a bit short … I was happy with the way these guys competed, and especially with the way we pitched.”

On Friday night, they began their season with a 4-1 loss against the Hurricanes.

The Scarlet Knights (0-3) sent senior Howie Brey to the hill for the first start of the season, and he produced a quality start by pitching six innings and allowing three runs.

He struck out seven batters and scattered eight hits across the innings, while only walking one.

He also extended his nation-leading streak of innings without allowing a stolen base to 93.

Though it was a loss for the Knights, Brey was excited to return to the mound, and left the game knowing what he hopes to work on moving forward in the season.

“For the first weekend against one of the top teams in the country, I felt that I did pretty well,” he said. “There’s a few mistakes that you make early in the season that you don’t make late in the season. There were a couple of times I had guys 0-2 in the count but missed a spot and they would get a hit, but that doesn’t happen often later in the season.”

Brey’s performance was one of the bright spots of the weekend, along with the pitching as a whole.

The Knights were competitive throughout the weekend, and it began with Brey’s start on Friday night.

“Howie is himself. He went out there and competes like he does, and pitched very well,” Litterio said. “He competed very hard and kept us in the game.”

Senior second baseman John Jennings also got off to a quick start in the opening game.

He reached base in all four plate appearances, including belting a home run for the team’s lone run of the game.

It was quite the start to the season for Jennings, who enters the season hoping to provide leadership both on and off the field for Rutgers.

“In the beginning of the season, you try to get ready and hope to have that kind of impact,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting to be like that right away, but it turned out to be a good game.”

In the second game of the series, the Knights were shutout by the Hurricanes, 2-0.

Junior Kyle Driscoll was the starting pitcher for Rutgers, and he struck out four over five innings and allowed just one earned run.

But as was the case for most of the weekend, it was a struggle for the Knights to get their bats going.

They managed just four hits in the second game, and only three hits in the third and final game of the series, where they fell 8-1.

However, the three hits were produced by three freshmen — outfielders Jawuan Harris and Mike Martinez and catcher Nick Matera — who picked up their first collegiate hits of their careers.

The early playing time for the freshmen should help their development as the season picks up, along with making things easier on some of the veterans.

“A lot of freshmen played this weekend and it was good to see them get out there against competition like Miami,” Litterio said. “We didn’t hit the ball as well as I thought we would, but we’ll attack that part of it.”

For updates on the Rutgers baseball team, follow @Mike_OSully2 and @TargumSports on Twitter.

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