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Rutgers opens season at No. 9 Miami

Knights will spend next 2 weekends in Florida

The Rutgers baseball team kicks off its season this Friday in the 305, as it begins a three-game set with No. 9 Miami. The Scarlet Knights will be looking for some revenge, as the Hurricanes have dominated these meetings, winning 9 of the last 10 games since 2015. 

Leading this Rutgers squad will be junior outfielder Jawuan Harris, junior catcher Nick Matera and senior pitcher John O’Reilly, who were all named to the Big Ten Preseason Honors List on Wednesday. 

Harris, being named by Baseball America as the top 2018 draft prospect in the Big Ten, has a shot to be an absolute force in the Knights' lineup this year. In addition to being named 2018’s top prospect, Harris was also honored as the league’s best athlete, fastest runner and best defensive outfielder by the same publication.

He looks to improve on a solid sophomore season after having slashed .269/.377/.468, while crushing 8 home runs out of the leadoff spot last year. 

Harris has an astounding 60 stolen bases through his first two seasons, which is currently sixth all time in program history. He comes into this season just 25 short of the school record and barring disaster, should reach that milestone. 

As for Matera, the junior backstop earned Third Team All-Big Ten honors in 2017 after slugging a hefty .504 to lead the team. He ranked second among Big Ten catchers with a .293 batting average, and compiled 11 doubles and 5 home runs. 

But, he may be even more valuable with his defense behind the plate, as he gunned out nine would-be base stealers in league play last season. If Rutgers is going to compete this season, Matera will undoubtedly be a key contributor.

John O’Reilly heads into his senior season as the clear leader of the pitching staff. Having started 35 career games and pitching more than 214 innings for the Knights, this seasoned veteran is sure to be calm and composed on the mound, no matter the situation. 

The poise was evident last year in his start against Purdue, where he sat down the first 19 Boilermakers to flirt with perfection. He led the staff in innings last year as a junior, hurling 76.2. This 6-foot-5-inch monster is sure to be an intimidating presence on the mound, but can also toy with hitters as he is very bright on and off the field. O’Reilly is a two-time Academic All Big-Ten selection.

If Rutgers plans on taking down the Big Ten favorite Indiana, these three guys will be at the forefront. Getting off to a hot start against a very tough Miami team would give the Knights a great boost to lead off the year, and that is exactly what they aim to do this weekend.

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

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