The baseball team has won eight games in a row after beating Maine last Thursday, sweeping Elon over the weekend, and besting Campbell on Wednesday.
However, with Rutgers coming to Mark Light Field this weekend, its winning streak is in jeopardy.
Rutgers is only 4-5 on the season, but it has faced some tough teams already. It beat Georgia Tech last Saturday on the road, and it will try to come to Mark Light Field and do the same thing to the Hurricanes.
“It’s important to keep winning to move up in the rankings,” Head Coach Jim Morris said. “Rutgers plays us great every year. They always play hard and they are well-coached and fundamentally sound.”
The Scarlet Knights’ lineup relies primarily on two players, senior Graig Badger, who set a school record last season in walks and stolen bases, with 56 and 41 respectively. In addition, the Hurricanes’ pitchers need to be careful with junior Jeff Frazier, who hit .315 last season with eight home runs and 54 runs batted in.
Rutgers returns its top two starters from last season in Jack Egbert and Shaun Parker. Egbert was 8-5 last season with a 3.95 ERA, while Parker was 4-3 with a 4.78 ERA. Their maturity and experience has given Rutgers a nice righty-lefty combination at the top of its rotation.
For the Hurricanes to be successful this weekend, they will need to keep swinging the bats well and take advantage of opportunities.
“Guys have to try to just put the ball in play,” outfielder Brendan Katin said. “We need to get the leadoff guy on base and move him around the base paths.”
The ‘Canes have struggled at times this year with leaving men on base. In the win over Maine, the Hurricanes left a runner on base in every inning except the eighth.
“It kills you to leave guys on base,” Katin said. “The bottom line is with a guy on third, you need to put the ball in play and drive that run in.”
Despite the eight-game winning streak that leaves the Hurricanes at 12-3 on the season, starting pitching continues to be a concern. J.D. Cockroft pitched well in his two relief appearances this past weekend, but the starters still need to be more consistent. Since Vince Bongiovanni already threw against Campbell, the pitchers for this weekend will be Cesar Carrillo on Friday, Dan Touchet on Saturday, and Brandon Camardese on Sunday.
“I’d like to solidify our rotation,” Morris said. “We need to establish a Friday night starter who can go out there and beat anyone else’s Friday night guy and we don’t have that right now.”
Touchet had a successful outing Saturday, in which the Hurricanes beat Elon 24-0.
“Touchet was impressive,” Morris said. “He is not going to beat himself. Dan has a lot of control and command of his pitches. He is going to make the other team earn whatever they get off him.”
The Hurricanes’ eight-game win streak has moved them back up to sixth in the polls. If they can sweep Rutgers, the ‘Canes should move back into the top five.
“I’m looking for us to play solid,” Morris said. “We need to look in the mirror and look at ourselves and continue to get better and stronger as the season goes on.”
Darren Grossman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.