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Oklahoma presents new foe for Knights

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The Rutgers baseball team’s season has been littered with cancellations, postponements, lost innings and games away from Bainton Field in Piscataway.

The Scarlet Knights (3-6) will yet again deal with some more of those issues this weekend as they travel to face Oklahoma (8-4).

To start, the Sooners scratched the Saturday game because of inclement weather to mark the fourth doubleheader the Knights have competed in this season.

In past games, Rutgers has had to limit innings in doubleheaders to better accommodate the schedule change. These lost innings have negatively impacted the pitching rotation and staff.

One would think a young staff, which has so many pitchers who have thrown their first innings with Rutgers this season, would need as many innings as possible.

The youth on the staff is not an issue for assistant coach Casey Gaynor.

“I want these guys to compete. Yes, they are young, but we aren’t going to use that as an excuse,” Gaynor said. “These kids have been pitching their whole lives, so it’s nothing new to them. We want them to show us who can go out there and step it up.”

For Oklahoma and schools in the south, pitchers gain more innings because of the amount of games being played.

The Sooners have had four more games than the Knights and come into this weekend’s series having played six games in eight days.

While Oklahoma’s weather allows the Sooners to practice outside, pitch more regularly and limit the time spent inside indoor facilities, Rutgers had its first practice outdoors Wednesday since the fall.

The Knights’ training is not as hindered as one might think, according to senior infielder Pat Sweeney.

“[While we are indoors], we are trying to get better every day,” Sweeney said. “We can work on the little things, like base running and defense. We have been getting a lot of defensive work. We have to make the most of what we have here.”

The indoor practice has not affected senior first baseman Brian O’Grady nor sophomore left hander Howie Brey.

Brey has a 1.04 ERA in 17 and one-third innings pitched en route to a 2-0 record on the mound. He only has a .125 batting average against in three starts this season.

O’Grady leads the AAC with a .471 batting average and .794 slugging percentage. He also leads the Knights with a .486 on-base percentage.

For last week’s performances, Brey and O’Grady earned AAC Honor Roll and Player of the Week, respectively. It is the first weekly conference recognition for both.

O’Grady accredits the success to at-bats he has had.

“I’m seeing the ball well and I’m nice and relaxed at the plate. I’m not missing good pitches to hit right now,” O’Grady said in a statement. “[The good pitches] just seem to keep coming, so hopefully I can keep going.”

O’Grady will look to keep his hot hitting going against the Sooners.

The chance to play Oklahoma is a unique one, as Rutgers has only played them one time.

“It’s always fun going to a place like Oklahoma. I don’t know the last time Rutgers has gone there as a team, but this is my first time going anywhere near there,” O’Grady said. “It’s a pretty big school so it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

For updates on the Rutgers baseball team, follow Tyler Karalewich on Twitter @TylerKaralewich. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.

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