September 23, 2019 | 79° F

Rutgers heads north to take on Iona Wednesday afternoon

Photo by Luo Zhengchen |

Head coach Joe Litterio implores his team to take advantage of their conference bye this week to gain momentum for their next Big Ten series. The Knights take on Wagner, St. Peter's and Seton Hall this week in the absence of a Big Ten opponent.

After a disappointing weekend series against Old Dominion, the Rutgers baseball team heads back on the road after a day of practice. The Scarlet Knights (3-7) take on Iona on Wednesday at 3 p.m. in New Rochelle, New York.

And while most of the Rutgers student body will be on its way home, or to the beach this Friday to celebrate spring break, the baseball team will be playing on the diamond in Jacksonville, Florida against the North Florida Ospreys — the first of a four-game weekend series and eight games the Knights will play over spring break.

For tomorrow, head coach Joe Litterio will throw out the same pitcher he used in last week’s midweek game against Wagner, but with a little twist.

“We’re going to start with (Christian) Campbell tomorrow,” Litterio said. “He’s not going to go probably longer than three innings because on the weekend I am probably going to use him. We’re also going to bring back Rosa. Gaby Rosa was a freshman All-American pitcher for us and we are going to try him on the mound tomorrow a little bit too to get him some innings so we can start to use him a little bit more.”

As for the rest of the week, because Litterio will seemingly be doing some mixing and matching, he stressed the importance of having his pitchers all on the same page.

“We got to get our pitching right,” he said. “That’s the main focus this week going into the spring break series — to get our pitching right. That’s something that we have to do a better job of as a coaching staff and also as a player to come into a game and focus on getting outs.”

Litterio’s pitching staff has been up and down, to say the least, so far this year, and although Rutgers’ offense has scored 53 runs so far in 10 games — a respectable 5.3 runs per game — the Knights have given up 82 runs against them.

Sophomore centerfielder Jawuan Harris knows he has some added pressure as he leads off the game and tries to set the table for the rest of his team.

“You want to try and see as many pitches as you can so the rest of the lineup can know what the pitchers throwing,” he said.

The speedy Harris, who had a tough weekend series going 1-for-11, saw his 29 on-base streak dating back to last season come to an end in the rubber game on Sunday. Harris had reached safely in 20 games until the end of last season, and the first nine games of this season until he went 0-for-3 on Sunday.

Rutgers knows how important Harris’ combination of power and speed can be at the top of its lineup and needs him to be the table setter so the rest of the guys can drive him in.

Despite his lackluster weekend, Harris is excited to be playing again and is ready to begin another streak.

“I feel like once we get the ball rolling tomorrow, come out and get a big win, it will help us to go into spring break ready to play some teams down in Florida,” he said.

One of the players who is familiar with driving in Harris, senior right fielder Tom Marcinczyk, agreed with his outfield partner about playing tomorrow.

“It definitely helps,” he said. “Anytime you get to play in a game situation, play all nine innings, you got to play hard just like you're going to do in the weekend series so it definitely helps.”

The Knights will look to get back on track with a win tomorrow and attain much-needed momentum for another tough opponent in North Florida. Regardless, Litterio has seen enough out of his team through the first 10 games to know something needs to change. To him, Rutgers has the versatility to be able to do that.

“The changes are coming,” he said.

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

Robert Sanchez

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