PISCATAWAY, N.J. (April 3, 2014) – After playing the first seven weekends on the road, Rutgers baseball will host No. 10 Houston in a conference series this weekend at Bainton Field. The Scarlet Knights have played 22 of their 24 games away so far this season.
The Scarlet Knights (10-14, 2-3) most recently split a midweek home-and-home series with Iona, with each team winning on their field. Freshman Tom Marcinczyk (Middlesex, N.J.) led RU by going 5-for-7 in those two games, while redshirt freshman Kyle Driscoll (Toms River, N.J.) tossed five shutout innings to earn the win Tuesday. Classmate Max Herrmann (Rutherford, N.J.) also pitched three scoreless innings without a hit allowed in the victory.
The set against the Cougars will mark the first home series of the year, as RU played six true road weekends and one tournament away to start the season. Rutgers is 2-0 at Bainton Field in 2014 and 91-53-1 at the facility since FieldTurf was installed for the 2007 season. The team won three-of-four home conference series last year.
Senior Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) leads the offense and is second in the conference with a .385 average through 24 games. The first baseman is also second in the American Athletic Conference with a .604 slugging percentage and tied for first with four triples. Junior Vinny Zarrillo (Forked River, N.J.), the 2013 BIG EAST league batting champion, is ranked fifth in the conference at .352 for the season. The Scarlet Knights are hitting .286 as a team, second-best in the AAC.
On the mound, sophomore Howie Brey (Middletown, N.J.) will make his first start since beating Old Dominion March 1. The left-hander last appeared out of the bullpen to earn the save at UConn, tossing three innings with one run permitted. Freshman Gaby Rosa (Perth Amboy, N.J.) will get the ball in the second game of the series and will look to regain the form that allowed him to pitch eight innings to win at No. 7 Louisville.
A freshman pitcher has started the last 11 games and 20 overall this season … freshmen have accounted for 75 percent of innings pitched (149.0) … senior Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.) has started the last 169 games, the sixth-longest active streak in the nation … RU is 9-2 this season when holding the opponent to five runs or less and 6-0 when limiting to four runs or less … the offense has scored 27 runs in the first inning, the most of any frame … O’Grady has had 10 games with at least two hits … the offense has scored with a runner on third and less than two outs 69 percent of the time.
The Cougars (23-5, 2-1) will be the first ranked team to come to Bainton Field since UConn arrived as No. 18 for a series in 2011. UH will also be the first team from Texas to ever play a baseball game at Rutgers. Led by head coach Todd Whitting, Houston started conference play with a home series win over Memphis last weekend. This will mark the first road three-game series of the season for the team.
The pitching staff is a strength, as it entered the week ranked first in the country with a 1.72 ERA. The Cougars have posted seven shutouts this season. Offensively, five hitters are over .300 to contribute to a .277 team average.
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The two programs have never met on the baseball diamond.
RU will play a home game in Lakewood, N.J., against Fordham Tuesday at 6:05 p.m. before coming back to play Columbia at Bainton Field Wednesday. The next weekend series will be against Hartford at home.