Rutgers resumes conference play against Nebraska
There seems to be an extra edge displayed by the Rutgers baseball team (21-20, 5-7) when it plays at Bainton Field.
The Scarlet Knights are 12-2 when playing at home this season, improving to that mark following a comeback victory over Villanova on Wednesday afternoon.
In the victory over the Wildcats, they were without some starters and played more freshmen than they are normally accustomed to, which made the 3-run rally in the eighth inning to win 6-4 even more impressive.
As the Knights prepare for another Big Ten series over the weekend when they welcome in Nebraska (25-15, 7-5) to Piscataway, they are looking to continue playing winning baseball at their home field and try to move up the conference standings.
“When we have some new guys in the lineup and we win with them, it’s good because it pushes our regular starters to get even better,” said head coach Joe Litterio. “It’s good because we know we can win with some guys off the bench, and it gives them more experience in games to be confident to jump in there.”
Rutgers enjoyed its best month of the season this April, earning a 12-5 record, including a 5-4 mark in Big Ten play.
Its last conference series came last weekend, when it hosted Penn State and won the series by taking 2 of 3 games.
Senior pitcher Howie Brey (5-3) got the Knights on the right track in the series last Friday by throwing a shutout in a 5-0 victory.
In his final campaign with Rutgers, the Middletown, New Jersey, native has a 2.61 ERA on the season, along with 61 strikeouts and three complete games.
The distance he has provided in his outings has greatly benefitted his team, as it has allowed the bullpen to rest and be more effective when they appear in other games.
He is likely to take the ball once again in the series opener against the Cornhuskers on Friday, and the team is always confident when its ace is on the hill.
“Howie’s been doing a tremendous job for this team all season long,” said junior outfielder Tom Marcinczyk. “His ERA is ridiculous considering how he’s always facing top-notch competition, and he’s going out there and battling with every single pitch.”
Marcinczyk provided the game-winning hit in the win over Villanova, sending a two-run single through the right side of the infield to put the Knights ahead 6-4.
Scoring on the play was freshman infielder Carmen Sclafani, who made a big impact earlier in the inning by tying the game with an RBI single through the left side.
Sclafani also provided Rutgers with solid defense at shortstop, making several plays to help get the Knights out of potentially stressful innings.
He was thrilled to be able to come through for the team in a big way in the game and hopes to impact more games along with his teammates in the future.
“Coach always tells us not to get too high off big wins or too low off losses,” Sclafani said. “We played well last game, but we know that we have to keep working hard and use this positive energy to keep things going.”
This weekend is crucial for Rutgers in terms of giving them another opportunity to move up the Big Ten standings in hopes of qualifying for the Big Ten Tournament.
They currently sit tied for ninth in the conference with Ohio State, and the top eight teams in the conference at season’s end will qualify for the tournament.
The Cornhuskers come to the Banks tied for sixth in the conference with a 9-9 road record on the season.
They have lost their last four Big Ten games and were most recently swept by Michigan in conference play.
But they have put together a good season overall and will be another challenge for the Knights to deal with at Bainton Field.
“We’re all playing for each other as a team right now,” Sclafani said. “Every game we play is tough and we just want to continue playing good baseball, no matter who we play.”
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