PISCATAWAY, NJ – Rutgers, the defending BIG EAST Regular Season Champions, has been picked to finish second in the league’s preseason coaches’ poll, announced today through the conference office. Rutgers, which captured the league crown with a 19-6 mark last season, earned 88 points and two first-place endorsements, trailing Notre Dame (99 points, eight first-place votes).
Boston College was picked third, followed by West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, St. John’s, Connecticut, Seton Hall, Villanova and Georgetown. ND’s Steve Sollman was named the Preseason Player of the Year, while BC’s Chris Lambert was named Preseason Pitcher of the Year.
Junior OF Jeff Frazier (Toms River, NJ) was Rutgers’ lone representative on the 14-member Preseason All-BIG EAST team. Frazier, a preseason and first team pick last spring, hit .315 in 2003 with 19 doubles eight home runs and 54 RBI, slugging .516. He was a Cape Cod League All-Star this past summer and is projected to be an early-round draft choice in June.
Rutgers opens its season on Feb. 20, when it plays the first of three games at William & Mary. Rutgers will also travel to Old Dominion (Feb. 27-29), Georgia Tech (March 5-7) and Miami (March 12-14) as part of its 20-game, season-opening road trip. RU’s first scheduled home game will take place on Tuesday, March 30 when it hosts Rider at 3:00 p.m.
Rutgers returns its top three starting pitchers, including junior Jack Egbert (Rutherford, NJ) and senior Shaun Parker (Westampton, NJ), and six positional starters, including senior 2B Graig Badger (Union, NJ) and senior CF Nick Cerulo (Woodbridge, NJ), this season. Egbert (8-5, 3.95) and Parker (4-3, 4.78) will anchor the pitching staff, while Badger (.318, school-record 41 stolen bases) and Cerulo (.274, 28 RBI) will spark the offense.
The Scarlet Knights posted a 33-18 mark in 2003, including their 19-6 record in BIG EAST play. After capturing the regular season championship, RU advanced to the finals of the BIG EAST Tournament, where it lost to Notre Dame, 11-3, following a 15-11 victory earlier in the day. The Scarlet Knights were rewarded with an NCAA Tournament berth – their fifth in the last six years – and traveled to Tallahassee, FL, where they defeated Jacksonville, 8-5, in the second round before bowing out with a 17-7 loss to No. 1 Florida State.