Rutgers to face Saint Peter's in midweek matchup
Midweek games aren’t necessarily supposed to be breather games between Big Ten weekends. Non-conference opponents can be tough, and the Rutgers baseball team knows all about that based on results this season. But its next midweek game might just be the easiest it’ll play all season.
The Scarlet Knights (21-15, 6-6) host Saint Peter’s (0-28, 0-12) for a midweek matchup on Wednesday. It will be their eighth time at home in the last 12 games, and they are 5-2 in those matchups and 8-5 overall at Bainton Field this season.
If the Peacock’s winless record looks bad enough, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Saint Peter's also went winless last year, and haven’t won a game since 2016.
The Peacocks are on a 67-game losing streak, by far the longest in Division I. They are 294th out of 297 teams in the RPI ranking and finished dead last in RPI last season.
They are last in batting average (.195), hits (169), runs per game (2.6), on-base percentage (.288), slugging percentage (.257), hits allowed (15.64 per nine innings), walks allowed (7.53 per nine innings), walks plus hits per innings pitched (2.57) and ERA (12.26).
By all accounts, Rutgers shouldn’t be too worried about this game. In fact, it has won five meetings against Saint Peter’s in the past five years and outscored them 34-15 in those matchups combined. But any game could be the end of a losing streak, and head coach Joe Litterio knows his team will have to be on its guard to avoid a notorious loss.
“When you’re playing a team like that, they’re dangerous. If we come out and play our game and do our (usual thing, we) should be okay," Litterio said.
The Knights are coming off a series win against Nebraska this past weekend and have won three of their last four games. But, they have split their last 10 games, which included suffering their first sweep of the season against Illinois.
But, that’s all in the rearview mirror for a team that’s looking to get going heading into the final month of the season.
One thing that has yet to be decided about Wednesday’s game is who the starting pitcher will be. Fifth-year senior Karl Blum got the call in the past two midweek games, but he started on Sunday, meaning he will most likely be unavailable to pitch.
Instead, Rutgers could turn to sophomore Eric Reardon, who hasn’t started a game since last Sunday. Another option could be freshman Eric Heatter, who hasn’t pitched since April 1.
“We’ll go to the drawing board and see who can pitch. We’ll figure that out on Tuesday during practice," Litterio said.
The offense, on the other hand, should get a boost with the return of fifth-year senior infielder Chris Folinusz and junior outfielder Luke Bowerbank, who both had a day off on Sunday against the Cornhuskers. Folinusz leads the team with 39 hits and Bowerbank’s .314 batting average is tied for the second-highest, so putting them back in the lineup will likely boost production.
But, Bowerbank and Folinusz’s absence didn’t stop the Knights from producing, as junior catcher Nick Matera drove in 5 runs, including 3 on a home run. He leads the team with 5 home runs, 27 RBI's, a .489 slugging percentage and is second in hits with 38.
Another bat in the Rutgers lineup that should be noted is Mike Nyisztor. The freshman outfielder is tied with Matera for the team lead in RBI's, is tied for third in hits with 37 and leads the team with 30 runs. Overall, the Knights boast a balanced offense that has many players capable of delivering key hits and that has been evident all season long.
Following the game, Rutgers will travel to face Purdue for a three-game series, with a high probability that it will be taking a two-game winning streak with them.
“We’re just going to come out with our energy, play the way we play and handle our business the way we handle our business,” Matera said.
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