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Season Preview: Rutgers baseball is upon us!

These Knights don’t have Roy Hobbs, but we could still see some excitement, especially on the bases.

West Virginia v Rutgers
It’s time for Scarlet Knights baseball.

Welcome to another season of Indians Rutgers Scarlet Knights baseball. At on the banks, we will do our best to cover the trials and tribulations of the ballclub this season, though not being able to watch or listen to all the games does make it slightly more difficult than some of the other sports. We won’t be offended if a post in the comments section indicates a [factual] error was committed. No, I am not Hall of Famer writer Dave Anderson. No, I am not “the decoy” either. Before you blame former Knights coach Matt Bolger for one of his former players failing at fundamentals, I am not (though related to) former Scarlet Knight catcher Dave Anderson ‘79-’82.

The Scarlet Knights baseball team’s winning tradition hit a speed bump their first year in the B1G (19-35 overall in 2015), but rebounded nicely last year (27-28 overall) with two more conference wins. They look to breach the .500 mark overall in 2017 and perhaps in the B1G as well. A new training complex can’t hurt, either. Joe Litterio serves as the team’s head coach and also leads their fundraising efforts in the “Coaches v Cancer”.

This will be tough as the team’s best player, 2nd team All-Big Ten Catcher R.J Devish has moved on. Devish, named the District II Player of the Year, led the Big Ten with a .524 on-base percentage (the highest by a Big Ten player since 2009), led the league with 56 runs, and ranked second with 24 stolen bases, the most steals by a catcher in the nation. 3rd team All-Big Ten Pitcher Howie Bray has also concluded his career. Despite their losses, the team’s core of seniors provides stability in 2017.

Players to watch

Tom Marcinczyk, Sr. OF: 18 steals last year (behind Harris and Devish) helping the Knights to school record 121. Career stats: 155 games, 12 HR, 97 RBIs.

Max Herrmann, RSr, RP: : A fifth year senior captain, the 6’3 lefty is the late game stopper out of the bullpen. He had 14 games finished (9 saves) last season which as we have seen at the major league level is more important than ever on the diamond.

Mike Carter, Sr. OF : Now a senior, Carter is the leading returning hitter on the club (.367). He played LF, CF, and DH in 2016 and returns for his second season as team captain.

Ryan Fleming, Sr. P : Fleming was 5-0 last season out of the bullpen. The lefty from Pennsylvania got in a groove last year with 12 consecutive scoreless appearances at one point and led the team in lowest opponent batting average.

Jawaun Harris, So. OF: The biggest name on the current team is two-sport standout Harris who led the Big Ten in stolen bases (37) as a true freshman. He was fourth team all-Big Ten in baseball in 2016. His .385 BABIP led the Big Ten. He was second on the team in runs.

Key Series

March 31 - April 2: home v Maryland

The B1G opening series for the Scarlet Knights. As we have seen in other sports, success starts with playing well against Penn State and Maryland, Rutgers conference geographic rivals.

April 18/19 - Home and home with Seton Hall

Taking the geographic rivalry even closer to home (literally) is the two game set with Seton Hall. To recruit the top NJ talent to stay home, these games are critical.

May 12 - May 14: home v Illinois, May 18-20: @ Northwestern

The Knights last two series of the season come against Illinois (tied for 8th in 2016) and @Northwestern (12th), two teams RU will be battling for those last few conference tournament spots. If it’s a tight race and RU can take let’s say 5 of 6 against the Illini/Huskies, that could bring needed momentum into a postseason appearance.

May 24 - The Big Ten Tournament (at Indiana)

Eight teams qualify for the Big Ten tournament, and qualifying is an important step for the program as they did not last season. Doing well would be gravy. This year it is not Omaha as it will return to in the near future, but rather Kaufman Field (not Kauffman Stadium) on the campus of the Indiana Hoosiers.

The first game is on the annual Florida trip against Miami (FL) on February 17, so get the sunflower seeds, sunscreen, and your glove ready because with 56 games on the regular season schedule and possibly more in the post-season it will be a long season!

And if you really want to look to the future, the Recruiting class of 2017 was announced, even though these players have another year of high school hardball to play.