PISCATAWAY, N.J. (April 24, 2014) – Sitting at third in the American Athletic Conference standings, Rutgers baseball will travel south to open a three-game series Friday at first-place and No. 22 ranked UCF. It will be the third trip to Florida this season for the Scarlet Knights, as the program has played at least one game in the state the last 32 seasons.
The Scarlet Knights (19-19, 6-5) split a pair of games in midweek action, defeating Rider, 6-4, to end a 13-game homestand at 9-4 before falling on the road at Wagner, 10-7. RU has won seven of its last nine and four of its previous six conference games, including a three-game home sweep against Cincinnati last weekend. The series at UCF will be the first road set in four weeks and eighth overall this season.
Offensively, senior Pat Sweeney (Sparta, N.J.) went 4-for-7 in the midweek games to take over the team batting average lead at .356, which also ranks third in the conference. Classmate Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) is closely behind in fourth place (.350), also placing first with five triples and second with a .543 slugging percentage. In addition, freshman Mike Carter (Bloomfield, N.J.) currently has a nine-game hitting streak and will look to extend it to 10 for the second time this year. Rutgers is second in the league with a .281 team batting average, two points off leader Louisville.
RU will go with the same pitching rotation for the third consecutive series – sophomore Howie Brey (Middletown, N.J.), freshman Gaby Rosa (Perth Amboy, N.J.) and redshirt freshman Kyle Driscoll (Toms River, N.J.). All three earned a win against Cincinnati and combined to give up just five earned runs over 21.1 innings. Brey went career-long 7.1 frames versus the Bearcats and kept the team in the game long enough to allow the offense to make a late comeback. Rosa followed with no earned runs over 8.1 innings to earn his third American Weekly Honor Roll selection. The right-hander has not surrendered an earned run over his last 16.1 innings and leads the league with 14.67 outs per game through the air. Finishing off the sweep, Driscoll struck out a career-best 11 batters – including the first seven outs – over six innings. Opposing hitters are batting .178 this season against the right-hander and he leads the league with 9.82 strikeouts per nine innings.
A freshman pitcher has started 29 games this season and freshmen have accounted for 71 percent of innings pitched (231.0) … senior Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.) has started the last 183 games, the fifth-longest active streak in the nation … Favatella (230, fourth) and O’Grady (209, 12th) have both eclipsed 200 career hits this season and are among the all-time leader in hits in school history … Favatella needs 12 more to move into third and O’Grady needs two more to tie David DeJesus for 11th … the team has connected for 19 triples this season (sixth-most nationally), sixth-most in a season in school history through only 38 games … RU is 18-3 this season when holding the opponent to five runs or less and 15-1 when limiting teams to four runs or less … the offense has scored 41 runs in the first inning (most of any frame) and is 11-5 when doing so … RU is fifth in the nation with 29 sacrifice flies, three off the leader … the last six wins for RU have ended with a save, as the team is up to 13 for the season (tied for fourth-most in a year in school history) … Rutgers has two wins over ranked opponents this season (at Louisville, vs. Houston).
The Knights (25-16, 12-3) will be hosting their fourth and final conference series and are 18-9 overall at Jay Bergman Field. The team did not play any midweek contests, having most recently taken a series over Louisville last weekend. Dylan Moore leads the team in average at .329, while Tommy Williams has blasted a league-leading 10 home runs. Eric Skoglund leads the staff with six wins and 75.2 innings and will get the ball for the series opener. The UCF pitchers have worked to a 3.51 ERA overall. Head coach Terry Rooney is in his sixth season at the helm of the program, most recently reaching NCAA Regionals in 2012.
Click here to read more on UCF baseball.
This will mark the first conference series between the programs, but UCF holds an 8-4 advantage dating back to 1994. The teams last met in a three-game set in Orlando in 2007, with the Knights winning two. The game that RU won marked the 900th career win for coach Fred Hill. The winning pitcher was for Rutgers was Steve Healing in a 4-3 victory.
RU will return home to host former BIG EAST rival Villanova Tuesday at Bainton Field before traveling to Monmouth Wednesday for another midweek game. The next conference series will start Friday at home versus Temple.