LOUISVILLE, Ky. (March 20, 2014) – Rutgers baseball will open its conference schedule with a three-game series at No. 7 Louisville, starting Friday at Jim Patterson Stadium. The Scarlet Knights also opened up league play on the road against the Cardinals last season and won two of the three meetings, additionally winning 9-1 in a BIG EAST Tournament elimination game later in the season.
The Scarlet Knights (7-10) wrap up an 11-day spring break trip with the series at Louisville, having made stops in Richmond, Va., for a tournament and at Virginia Tech for midweek action. It will be the sixth weekend on the road to start the season for RU.
Senior Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) leads the conference in hitting (.429), slugging (.714) and triples (4), while being second in on-base percentage (.493). Classmate Lou Clemente (Union, N.J.) is right behind O’Grady, sitting third both in hitting (.381) and on-base percentage (.480). As a team, Rutgers has scored at least five runs in eight of the last nine games.
Junior Vinny Zarrillo (Forked River, N.J.) enters conference play after leading the BIG EAST last season with a .407 in league games. A Scarlet Knight has won the conference batting title in three of the last four seasons (Patrick Kivlehan in 2012, Steve Nyisztor in 2010).
On the mound, redshirt freshman Kyle Driscoll (Toms River, N.J.) will get the first weekend start for the second time, striking out nine over six innings last time out versus Buffalo. The right-hander surrendered three hits and three runs in the outing. Freshman Ryan Fleming (Churchville, Pa.) has been bumped up to the second slot after permitting only one run over five frames at VCU last week. The Scarlet Knights have used a freshman to start each of the last eight weekend games.
Senior Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.) has started the last 162 games, the seventh-longest active streak in the nation … RU entered the week tied for third nationally with 17 sacrifice flies this season … the defense leads the conference with a .974 fielding percentage despite having zero outdoor practice prior to the season starting … RU is 6-2 when playing errorless ball in a game … senior Pat Sweeney (Sparta, N.J.) went 6-for-10 with a .733 on-base percentage in four games last week to earn NJCBA Division I Player of the Week … he leads RU with a current 10-game on-base streak … the game against Louisville is seventh game in a row versus a new opponent …freshmen pitchers have worked 68 percent of the innings this season (96.1) … pitching staff graduated 100 percent of weekend starting innings from last season … team has scored in first inning seven times and is 5-2 in those games (6-3 when scoring first overall) … offense has drawn at least three walks in the last eight games … RU has used 17 freshmen this season, including 11 newcomers on the mound … the nine freshmen pitchers used week one led the nation.
The Cardinals (15-5) are in the top 20 in all five major college baseball polls, sitting at No. 7 in the NCWBA. UofL hosted an NCAA Regional at Patterson Stadium on its way to the College World Series last season. This year’s team had a nine-game winning streak snapped with a road loss at Indiana Wednesday, 9-3. It will be the fifth-straight weekend at home for Louisville, as it has only played two true road games to this point.
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Heading into the final conference series between the two programs, Louisville leads the series, 18-8, since it began in 1973. Rutgers took two out of three games last season at Patterson Stadium when UofL was ranked No. 4 according to Baseball America. In the series opener, the offense collected 13 hits and Rob Smorol pitched seven strong innings for the 6-2 win. Then after UofL won the first game of a doubleheader the next day, 4-0, the Scarlet Knights took the nightcap and series behind an eight-inning, two-run outing from Charlie Law to win 7-3. The teams later met in an elimination game at the BIG EAST Tournament in Clearwater, Fla., with Rutgers scoring four times in the first inning on the way to a 9-1 victory. Law pitched a complete game.
RU will return to New Jersey after its spring break trip to host Rider at Bainton Field Wednesday at 3 p.m. for its second home game of the season. The next weekend series will be at UConn.