As has been the case for several seasons, Rutgers began the season with a three game set at former Big East foe Miami. Some sources listed the Hurricanes as ranked highly as #9 in the country, but ESPN had them #24 heading into the weekend. Check out our season preview here.
Friday night: #24 Miami (FL) 7, Rutgers 1
The Hurricanes kicked off legendary coach Jim Morris’s final season at Miami with a win in an odd game that saw all it’s scoring in the first 4 innings. After a Jawuan Harris single in the top of the 5th, there was not another base hit for either club. The game ended with both teams tallying 6 hits apiece, but the Hurricanes still registered the convincing victory.
Decisive stat: Rutgers starter John O’Reilly faced 18 hitters and only retired 9 of them. The veteran O’Reilly facing a top-25 opponent was victimized in a variety of ways: a home run, a wild pitch, and a costly error of his own that resulted in 2 unearned runs. After O’Reilly departed, Eric Reardon and Tommy Genuario pitched awesome, combining for five shutout innings with only one hit allowed to give the Knights a chance.
Notable: Coach Joe Litterio didn’t hesitate to mention before the season a desire to find a spot for freshman Michael Nyisztor. Nyisztor led off the game in his college debut as the team’s leftfielder. He went 1 for 5 and also played 2nd base later in the game.
Saturday: #24 Miami (FL) 8, Rutgers 5
Rutgers put a run across before an out was even recorded in the game but ultimately their comeback fell short, falling 8-5. Rutgers loaded the bases and Hurricanes starter Veliz walked in a run before anyone had been retired in the top of the first. Then Rutgers plated another run in the second. Miami took a 7-2 lead but Rutgers fought back to make it 8-5 in the 6th. The score remained that way and the Scarlet Knights put two on to bring the tying run to the plate in the 9th but were unable to tie the game.
Decisive stat: With starter Serafino Brito pumping strikes, Rutgers held a 2-0 with two outs in the second. From there he completely lost it and Miami (FL) scored seven runs all with two men having already been retired in the inning. The Rutgers bullpen, particularly Kyle Gerace and Ryan Wares kept Rutgers in the game the rest of the way.
Notable: Nyisztor starting at first base was hit by a pitch in his second at-bat. After purposely getting in a run down allowing a run to score, he was removed from the game and replaced by Milo Freeman.
Sunday: Rutgers 7, #24 Miami (FL) 5
Miami took an early lead, but this time Rutgers was the comeback kids in a 7-5 win. Freshman Harry Rutkowski got his first career start and allowed five runs (three earned) before Rutgers took advantage of three Miami errors in the top of the fourth to explode for seven runs of their own. Rutkowski pitched a scoreless bottom half then from there both bullpens held serve and Rutgers tallied their first victory of the season.
Decisive stat: Eight strikeouts in four shutout innings of relief garnered the win and Big Ten freshman of the week honors for Eric Heatter. Karl Blum followed him with a scoreless 9th to earn his first save as a Scarlet Knight. The team’s biggest concern heading into the year, the bullpen combined for a 0.59 ERA with 20 strikeouts, allowing only a single run in 15.1 innings.
Notable: Dan DiGeorgio added two more hits and leads the team in batting (.444). Senior Kyle Walker in his first start reached base three times.
Next up: RU (1-2) will return to the Sunshine State for three games at a neutral site against three different opponents this weekend. In an odd twist, Rutgers is (Indiana in Big Ten) or was (St. Bonaventure in the A-10, BC in the Big East) conference foes with each of the three opponents at one time or another. All games in Port Charlotte, FL.
Friday: No. 20 Indiana at 3 pm.
Saturday: St. Bonaventure at 1 pm.
Sunday: Boston College at 11 am.
Eric Heatter of @RutgersBaseball is the #B1GBaseball Freshman of the Week after earning a win in relief in his collegiate debut by pitching four scoreless innings with eight strikeouts to lead the Scarlet Knights to a 7-5 win at No. 24 Miami on Sunday pic.twitter.com/HPnVTNsUdr— Big Ten Baseball (@B1Gbaseball) February 19, 2018