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Rutgers finishes on a high note against No. 17 Miami

<p>Despite losing Rutgers’ opener on Friday to the Miami Hurricanes, junior right-handed pitcher John O’Reilly posted a 2.57 ERA, striking out seven batters in six innings of work. </p>

Despite losing Rutgers’ opener on Friday to the Miami Hurricanes, junior right-handed pitcher John O’Reilly posted a 2.57 ERA, striking out seven batters in six innings of work.

For the eighth time in nine years, the Rutgers baseball team began its season at the Mark Light Field at Alex Rodriguez Park to take on No. 17 Miami. Coming into the series, the Hurricanes had a 14-game winning streak against the Scarlet Knights.

After Rutgers dropped its first two games on Friday and Saturday, it looked like the streak might reach 17 games. But on Sunday, the only thing that reached 17 was the runs scored by the Knights (1-2) as they would go on to beat the Hurricanes (2-1) by a score of 17-6, salvaging the last game of the series.

“It’s great,” said junior right-hander and Opening Day starter John O’Reilly. “For our seniors, we haven’t done that yet since I’ve been here so it’s good for the culture of the program, for the young guys to come in and get a win and kind of go down there and expect to get a win from now on.”

Right in the thick of things during the series was sophomore centerfielder Jawuan Harris, who was happy to see his team firing on all cylinders Sunday.

“It felt really good because we had some opportunities in the earlier games to put up more runs and we didn’t,” Harris said. “So it felt good to really tack on extra runs late, during the game as well.”

During the 17-run barrage, six Rutgers players had multiple-hit games — five players had multiple runs batted in (RBI) and six players had multiple runs scored.

“I like the confidence they had going into the weekend,” said head coach Joe Litterio. “We usually come down here to face Miami and there are a little bit of nerves and jitters, but these guys were very confident and played that way all weekend.”

In Friday night's season opener, O’Reilly (0-1) pitched seven innings, striking out seven, walking three and giving up two runs on a two-run home run to Hurricane Romy Gonzalez in the second inning. The Knights would go on to lose by a score of 3-0, only recording three hits while committing three errors in the field.

On Saturday, Rutgers took the lead in the third inning off of a solo shot by Harris and an RBI single by senior first baseman Christian Campbell. In the bottom of the frame, pitcher Serafino Brito relinquished the lead and gave up three runs. Brito (0-1) finished his night with six innings of four-run balls while striking out four. Harris would hit another home run, this one a two-run shot in the ninth inning, but it wasn’t enough as Miami came out on top, 8-4.

“I’m just trying to see good pitches to hit,” Harris said when asked how he feels at the plate. “I was just watching a lot of junk and I was able to get into hitters' counts and just attacking fastballs.”

Sophomore right-hander James Torres started on Sunday, but could not qualify for the win as he went 3 2/3 innings, giving up three runs while walking three and striking out four. Freshman Eric Reardon (1-0) came in for relief and got the win in his collegiate debut. Sophomores Ryan Wares and Kevin Romero also saw some action out of the bullpen while Campbell moved from first base to pitch two scoreless innings. Freshman Joe Neglia finished the day off with a clean ninth.

Litterio is pleased with how his team performed, especially in a tough environment against a nationally ranked school.

“Anytime you can win down south early on in the season, it’s a very good win,” Litterio said. “Especially when it’s an opponent like Miami who is a ranked team.”

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

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