After beginning its season by getting swept in a three-game series down in Miami, the Rutgers baseball team returns to the diamond this weekend looking to bounce back and get its season going on the right track.
The Scarlet Knights (0-3) head to Fairfax, Virginia, to take on George Mason (0-3) in a battle of teams looking to get in the win column for the first time in the 2016 season.
For the Knights to do this, they know they will have to replicate their solid pitching from last weekend, but also need to see more production out of their bats against the Patriots.
“Like with everything else, we have to keep working to get to where we want to be,” said head coach Joe Litterio. “We’re hoping to get better on defense because that tailed off a little bit (in the last game against Miami), and then on the whole, we know that we have to swing it better, so we’re going to try to attack that part of it this weekend.”
Rutgers was indeed in most of the games against Miami, but could not sustain enough offense to keep up with the No. 4 Hurricanes.
They scored only two runs in the three-game series but pitched well enough to stay competitive in each game.
Senior Howie Brey earned the opening start for the Knights, lasting six innings and giving up just three runs in a loss.
Though Rutgers couldn’t manage a win against one of the nation’s top teams, it saw some positives to take from its performance that can help them against George Mason.
“We were in it for almost every inning against Miami, so that’s something to build on,” Brey said. “Our starting pitching and bullpen pitched really well, and our confidence has gone up because we know we can play with some of the better teams in the country."
Brey is expected to get another start this weekend, along with junior Kyle Driscoll and sophomore John O’Reilly.
They made up the trifecta of starters against Miami and are slated to each get another turn against George Mason.
Brey said afterwards that he wasn’t as sharp as he was hoping to be against Miami, but knows he will get more acclimated to the mound as the season progresses.
“I had a rocky start on Friday, giving up a few hits, but I think it was just nerves,” he said. “After that, I started to get into more of a groove. By the next game we play, everyone will be ready to go and the nerves will be gone. We’re ready to win some ballgames.”
While the offense generally struggled last weekend, one player who got off to a fast start is senior John Jennings.
The veteran infielder reached base in all four plate appearances in the team’s first game, including belting the first home run of the season for the Knights.
Along with other key bats like junior Tom Marcinczyk and senior Chris Suseck, Jennings is hoping a provide a spark to jumpstart the offense against George Mason.
It is the first time Rutgers will have ever played George Mason on the road at Spuhler Field, and it is looking to break through with some wins.
“We’re hoping to work on our approach and have more at-bats that are competitive,” Jennings said. “Moving runners and getting on base are always important. We also need to start seeing some better pitches. Other than that, we just need to stay focused and we should be okay.”