By Alexa Ramos
It was a beautiful day at Bainton Field as the Rutgers Scarlet Knights baseball team held their first 2013 fall intersquad scrimmage on Sunday, Sept. 15. A solid battle of the freshman against the returning players showcased the new and veteran talent with much potential for the season ahead. The Scarlet Knights are working to prepare for the year with a lengthy number of new faces. There will be big changes for the team this year as eleven seniors graduated last semester leaving many open spots on the field and mound. Fred Hill enters his 31st season as head coach, with the Knights returning from a 2013 spring season of 28-30 (14-10), including making the semifinals of the BIG EAST tournament.
The inter-squad scrimmage was played in two, seven inning games allowing each player to display their best efforts. Each pitcher from both sides threw two innings against an offense mixed with power, speed and patience. The veteran side exemplified great emphasis on wise and aggressive baserunning, a key skill that will definitely help the Knights advance this year. Senior and team leader Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.) felt confident after the first outing with the team.
“I think we hit the ball pretty well today,” Favatella said. “It was nice to get the confidence going early, especially with hitting. We made plays in the field, and the pitchers threw strikes. Those are the three things you have to do to win.”
The starting second basemen, Favatella, returns after an impressive season holding the 13th-longest active starting streak in the nation with 145 games. He was also fifth in conference games with a .379 batting average. The secret to his success is simple.
“There’s really nothing special, I can’t say there’s a secret. I do what I have to do each day, get stronger, and stay injury free.”
Another top Scarlet Knight senior leader includes starting outfielder Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.). O’Grady provides a great example to his teammates and the new faces on the field after being named to the 2013 BIG EAST All-Tournament Team, hitting .500 throughout the event with three doubles and four RBIs. After starting all 58 games in centerfield last season, this multi-talented athlete with much veteran experience shares what the Scarlet Knights are looking to accomplish in the fall for the spring.
“We’re always just trying to get better,” he said. “We try to focus on swinging at good pitches and do a couple different things around the bases. The fall is the time to get ready for the upcoming season and come together as a team.”
After rehabbing from an injury from last year, senior shortstop Pat Sweeney (Sparta, N.J.) returns to the field, looking forward to getting back for his final season. Sweeney appeared in 45 games with 39 starts at shortstop in 2013. The outcome and displayed talent on both sides throughout the scrimmages reminded Sweeney what exactly this new year needs to accomplish in order to be successful.
“There are a lot of new guys, so we need to get close as a team,” he said. “When you replace a lot of seniors, you have to build the team back up again and that’s what the fall season is about. Getting the camaraderie back and coming together as a team will be effective in the spring.”
On behalf of what Sweeney can personally contribute as a senior, he hopes to set a good example for the newcomers through his actions on and off the field.
“I’m trying to be a leader,” he said. “Whether it’s leading by example or showing a freshman a different way to do something, I’m just trying to help out anyway I can.”
Observing the new and returning prospects for the Scarlet Knights, associate head coach Joe Litterio gave some personal insight on the coaching staff’s plan for the fall and the first outing.
“Overall I thought we did a lot of good things for the first day out,” he said. “It’s the first day and we have a lot of new players this year. The purpose was to see what the newcomers can do and introduce them to college baseball to see where they fit in. We’re going to have to make some cuts this year, so it’s important to let them get their chances to show if they belong on the team. On a whole, I thought we had a great day.”
The Scarlet Knights will continue to practice and scrimmage throughout the fall season rebuilding and strengthening the returning and new talent for the 2014. Continue to keep watch for Rutgers baseball on Twitter @baseballRU and on the team Tumblr blog.