PISCATAWAY, N.J. (May 14, 2014) – Currently riding an eight-game winning streak, Rutgers baseball will hit the road for its final series of the regular season at Memphis starting Thursday. The Scarlet Knights (27-22, 12-8) have clinched at least the fourth seed in the American Athletic Conference and can move as high as third depending on results from the final weekend of action.
RU will look to extend is winning streak to nine for the first time since winning 14 consecutively in 2004. The last eight-game streak took place in 2010.
The Scarlet Knights will look to translate their success at home to the road for the final series of the season. The team won its last 13 games at Bainton Field – second-longest active streak in the nation – to finish the year 19-4 at home. Rutgers will look to snap its six-game losing streak, as it has played 23 of the last 27 at home. The trip to Memphis will be the ninth road weekend of the season.
Most recently, RU picked up its third conference sweep of the season against USF. Sophomore Howie Brey (Middletown, N.J.) pitched his first nine-inning complete game in the opener to set the tone for the rest of the weekend. In game two, the Scarlet Knights retired coach Fred Hill’s number in a pregame ceremony before rallying from a two-run deficit in the ninth inning to force extra innings. Senior Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.) then delivered a two-out, walk-off single in the 12th inning to score junior Michael Zavala (Randolph, N.J.). RU ran up to a 7-1 lead through two innings in the series finale on the way to a 12-2 victory that was cut short to seven innings due to the conference mercy rule.
The offense, which ranks second in the conference with a .279 team average, has three players hitting over .320 led by senior Brian O’Grady (Warminster, Pa.) at .339 (fourth in the conference). He is ranked fifth in slugging percentage (.516) and second in triples (five). Senior Pat Sweeney (Sparta, N.J.) was recently named to the “Breakout Player of the Year” list and ranks fifth with a .338 average and sixth with a .436 on-base percentage. Freshman Mike Carter (Bloomfield, N.J.) is at .321 and is the sixth Rutgers freshman since 2000 to have at least 59 hits in a season. Additionally, Favatella earned a spot on the American Weekly Honor after hitting 7-for-14 (.500) over his last four games with seven runs, three doubles and two home runs. He leads the team with 39 runs, which sits tied for fifth-most in the league.
On the mound, Brey will make his 10th series-opening start of the season. The left-hander allowed three earned runs over his last two starts (1.76 ERA) and is holding the opposition to a .196 average against overall, the third-lowest amongst qualifying pitchers in the American. Freshman Gaby Rosa (Perth Amboy, N.J.) took a no-decision last time out against USF despite giving up no earned runs over seven-plus innings. The right-hander has worked to a 1.02 ERA over his last five starts and leads the conference with 14.82 fly outs per game. Out of the bullpen, junior Jon Yong (Old Bridge, N.J.) is tied for second in school history with nine saves this season and has allowed just one run over his last 15.1 innings pitched (0.59 ERA). Redshirt freshman Max Herrmann (Rutherford, N.J.) has 29 strikeouts in 36 innings, spanning 19 appearances.
A freshman pitcher has started 37 games this season and freshmen have accounted for 69 percent of innings pitched (295.2) … Favatella has started the last 194 games, the fourth-longest active streak in the nation … Favatella moved into third in school history over the weekend with 244 hits, also being second in career at bats (786), seventh in triples (seven) and ninth in runs (157) … O’Grady has also eclipsed the 200-hit mark this year and is eighth (223) in the records, sitting fourth in at bats (753) and 10th in doubles (45) … Favatella, O’Grady and Sweeney have combined to play in 588 games with 560 starts during their collegiate careers … the team has connected for 23 triples this season (fourth-most nationally), tied for third-most in a season in school history … RU is 25-5 this season when holding the opponent to five runs or less and 20-3 when limiting teams to four runs or less … the team has scored 52 runs in the first inning, the most of any frame … RU is fourth in the nation with 36 sacrifice flies … the pitching staff has 15 saves this year, tying last season’s team for the program record.
The Tigers (27-26, 7-14) dropped their most recent conference series at Cincinnati, but are still holding on to the final spot for the playoffs by one game over the Bearcats. Memphis played a midweek game and defeated UT-Martin, 11-0, in its last game. Kane Barrow leads the offense with a .324 average, while Jake Little has blasted five home runs. On the mound, Caleb Wallingford will start the first game and has worked to a 1.90 ERA in 80.2 innings this season. The team has played to a .269 batting average and 3.87 ERA in 2014. Daron Schoenrock is in his 10th season at the helm of the program.
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Memphis will be the fourth team on the schedule that Rutgers will see for the first time in program history this season (Buffalo, Houston, Hartford). RU last traveled to the state of Tennessee in 2003 for a weekend against Vanderbilt, Middle Tennessee State and Lipscomb.
The Scarlet Knights will fly directly to Clearwater, Florida, to play in the first American Athletic Conference Baseball Championship at Bright House Field. The opponent and date for the opening game will be determined following league action this weekend.