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Rutgers Baseball season superlatives

Harris and Carter shine.

Bob Cancro

Team MVP: Mike Carter. This ended up being closer than it looked halfway through the year, as he finished with a .329 batting average. As mentioned in the season ending report card, Carter ended as the only offensive player hitting over .300, shocking considering this offense was average at worst. He joined the two hundred career hit club (along with Tom Marcinczyk) in a season during which the unconventional leadoff man led the team in RBIs (33) and finished second in runs scored (37). He will be missed and hopefully can catch on in the professional ranks.

I say hope despite his gaudy numbers because former Knights star Mark Zagunis never did. The star of the 1981 club hit .446 with 11 homers and 54 RBI in a 30 game season but he, like Carter, did not have a specific defensive position. The story goes that after not being drafted, a frustrated Zagunis threw his equipment in the Raritan and never played again (his son does though). Hopefully Carter gets a better opportunity, perhaps as a versatile outfielder like he was earlier in his career and occasionally at first base.

Pitcher of the Year: Max Herrmann. Serafino Brito improved, but he ended up 3-9 despite a solid offense supporting him. Herrmann truly is the only pitcher on the entire team you could say had a good season with a 3.31 ERA in 32.2 innings. Some of the freshman looked okay in limited action, but Herrmann truly was the stopper and closer of the bullpen. He set the school record for saves in the process. With a low 90s fastball and lefthanded delivery, he should catch on in the minor leagues where he could see more success facing wooden bats as his time on the banks comes to a close.

Defensive MVP: Jawuan Harris. A centerfielder as your defensive MVP is not necessarily what you want, but Knights fans definitely felt more confident when the ball was in the air than on the ground. The true sophomore Harris did make two errors, but did have 124 put outs for a .984 fielding percentage second only to Carter on the team. His elite speed covered enough ground to allow slower footed guys in the corner outfield spots at times. After a full season in center, he likely will be even more dynamic next year. He was no slouch on offense either, leading the team with 8 homers including 3!?! in one game.

Comeback player of the year: Chris Folinusz. Milo Freeman started out hot and finished ok, but this one has to go to the redshirt junior. Coming off an injury he was tasked with replacing team MVP R.J. Devish beind the plate. Not quite the defensive force or base stealing threat himself, Chris was no slouch in either regard and finished third on the team in batting. His 22 RBI and 21 runs scored were impressive for a catcher. The Cranford product was more than serviceable behind the plate keeping up and comer Nick Matera on the bench longer than anyone could have expected. He was so productive at times the staff elected to play the 6’4, 225 pounder in the outfield when his knees needed a rest from squatting.

Most improved: Nick Matera. His season got off to a slow start as the staff struggled to find opportunities for him as so many other guys were producing offensively at the time and the aforementioned Folinusz held down the catching duties. Once he got going the backstop from Roxbury raised his batting over over 100 points from his freshman season (.181 to .293), finishing second on the team in that category. he added 5 homers and actually led the team in slugging percentage at .504. He added 23 RBI in what ended up being 33 starts. His fielding percentage was slightly below Folinusz but Nick actually threw out 11 of 30 basestealers so it will be interesting to see who the primary catcher is in 2018. Regardless, even more will be expected of Nick next year as a junior.

Most pleasant surprise: Mike Martinez. The sophomore is not physically imposing, listed at only 5’9” and 175 lbs. The Bergen Catholic product played more as the season went on and finished with a .273 average (up from .204 as a freshman), 23 RBI, and 11 stolen bases. He was also tied with Harris, second on the team in fielding percentage at .984. As the team looks toward next year, he should factor into what again will be an outfield crowded for playing time.

Mr. Consistency: Chris Campbell. He did everything he could to help this team despite not being a workhorse starting pitcher or natural third baseman. On a team with outfielders and catchers, but short on infielders and pitchers he did his best in both roles. In the field he did make 20 errors, but numbers don’t tell the whole story because his arm had to be tired from making 10 starts on the hill and when he played his more natural first base, he wasn’t always getting solid throws in the infield. He was clutch with the stick as well, hitting .276 with 24 RBI and 26 runs scored. At one point Campbell had a 12 game hitting streak. He ended his home career with a walk off hit to cap off a dramatic 9th inning rally to defeat Illinois. The Sayreville alum will be missed.

Unsung hero: Tom Marcinczyk. 200 hits in a career is a tremendous accomplishment for a guy from nearby Middlesex. Overshadowed at times by the dramatics of Campbell, table setting of Carter, and athleticism of Harris, Tom still managed to hit .274 with 7 jacks, 29 RBI (2nd on the team), and scored 32 runs (3rd). Though not even his best season, Marcinczyk finishes his career with 208 hits, 19 HR, 126 RBI, 123 runs, and 30 stolen bases. Like others on this list, his lack of size may hurt his draft stock, but he should be able to continue his career on the diamond somewhere if he so chooses. Numbers don’t lie.

Most disappointing: Gaby Rosa. After the opening series finale against Miami (FL), it appeared the senior from Perth Amboy would remain a fixture at shortstop as he was as a junior in 2016 when he started 54 games there. It was mostly downhill after that as he made some errors and replaced by Kevin Welsh at shortstop. The staff was forced to use him as a starting pitcher reducing his position playing time even further where he hit only .167 after checking in at .247 a year earlier. The 2014 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American and AAC rookie of the year, didn’t match those numbers on the mound either. Had he been able to recapture his pitching from 2014 or defense from 2016, this season would have looked a lot different for him and likely the entire Scarlet Knight ballclub.

Needs biggest bounce back in 2018: John O’Reilly edges Luke Bowerbank because the team needs pitching. Brito seemed to get better as the season went on when O’Reilly stayed in neutral until a solid seven inning, eight strikeout performance at Northwestern when the RU offense called in sick. Hopefully that last performance of the season will carry over for John. Like many taller hurlers, the 6’5 Old Tappan graduate likely has better days ahead as he continues to grow into his frame. The Scarlet Knights really need it as he will be a senior in 2018.

Rookie of the year: Kevin Welsh. This one was almost by default as no other freshman saw significant time. Welsh made a few errors at second base, but the staff made the tough decision of moving him to shortstop anyway where he was an every day player the rest of the way at the key infield spot. He turned it around at the plate as well finishing at .246 after spending the first half of the season on the interstate. He scored 23 runs and had 20 RBI despite batting very low in the order. The Northern Burlington freshman will be counted on heavily for the rest of his career in the middle infield.

Best individual offensive game: Harris’s three homers. (interview above) ... (B1G) opener v #17 Michigan Sclafani 2 homers.

Best team offensive game: 28 runs against Lafayette ... (B1G): 13-5 win in rubber game @ Iowa.

Best individual pitching performance: Gaby Rosa, 7 innings of 1 run ball at North Florida. Bullpen shuts the door ... (B1G) John O’Reilly retiring the first 19 in rubber match v Purdue.

Best overall team performance: Finale at #17 Miami (FL) 17-6. ... (B1G) 5-3 win to even Iowa series.

Best series: Sweep of USC Upstate. ... (B1G) defeat of Iowa.

Most exciting game: 8-7 walkoff in home finale v Illinois.

Did we leave anybody out? Let us know in the comments below.