PISCATAWAY, NJ – The Rutgers baseball team, which has won 18 of its last 21 games, returns to action on Tuesday, when it hosts Lafayette at 3:30 p.m. at the Class of ’53 Baseball Complex. The game was originally scheduled for last Wednesday, April 28, but was rescheduled due to conference obligations for the Leopards. Freshman Chris Rini (Flemington, NJ) is expected to make his first career start for the Scarlet Knights. In addition, Rutgers will also host Wagner on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. and Pace University over the weekend with singles games on Saturday and Sunday.
Rutgers won four of five games last week, including three of four on the road, to improve to 25-16 overall and 13-5 in BIG EAST play. RU maintains its slight hold on first place in the BIG EAST standings with six league games left to play. The Scarlet Knights are one-half game ahead of Notre Dame and Pittsburgh (both 12-5) in the standings. RU hit .388 as a team last week, led by junior catcher Colin Gaynor (Toms River, NJ). Gaynor batted .556 over the five contests (10-for-18) with four runs scored and a team-high six RBI. He was 6-for-11 (.545) in the three-game series at Virginia Tech, hitting a key, two-out, three-run double in the second game that gave RU a 11-6 lead in an eventual 11-10 victory. He has hit safely in 29 of his last 30 games, including a current 10-game hitting streak, and has raised his average to .367 after starting the year with a 2-for-21 skid. Junior Jeff Frazier (Toms River, NJ) was 8-for-13 in the Virginia Tech series (.615), including his 31st career home run, which puts him one shy of tying the Rutgers school record of 32, set in 1999 by Pete Zoccolillo. Frazier also collected his 200th career hit at VT - one of just nine players in school history to accomplish the feat. He leads the team in several categories, including average (.386), doubles (14), HR (10) and RBI (49).
Sophomore Jimmy Jansen (Hillsdale, NJ), the reigning NJCBA Pitcher of the Week, claimed two of RU's four victories last week to improve to 5-0 this season. He pitched two shutout innings vs. Monmouth on Thursday to earn the win and then, in his first BIG EAST start of the season, he allowed just two earned runs in 7.1 innings as RU defeated Virginia Tech, 10-3, on Sunday. After yielding an unearned run in the first, he did not allow another run until the the eighth inning, as RU built a 7-1 lead. In addition, junior OJ DeChristofano (Pequannock, NJ) returned from injury this week with two impressive outings. After missing nearly three weeks with shoulder soreness, DeChristofano pitched three shutout innings vs. Monmouth, allowing just one hit, and then fired 1.2 shutout innings in the second game vs. Virginia Tech, allowing just one walk, to earn his first save of the season. He entered the game with the bases loaded and one out vs. the Hokies, who had already scored four runs in the eighth, and induced back-to-back pop-ups to end the inning before holding RU's 11-10 lead with a shutout ninth.
Lafayette is 22-22 overall and 11-9 in Patriot League action thus far in 2004. Hitting .302 as a team, the Leopards are led by the formidable duo of Adam Rosenberg (.383, 11 2B, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 11 SB) and Jason Boyd (.377, 12 2B, 7 3B, 9 HR, 41 RBI, 14 SB) – two of six Lafayette regulars at .300 or above. The pitching staff owns a respectable 4.44 ERA, led by Marcus Ward (6-1, 4.26) and Tom Soldan (4-3, 3.67). Lafayette is the No. 2 seed in the Patriot League Tournament, which takes place May 8-9 in West Point, NY.
Wagner (15-24 overall, 9-10 Northeast) is led by Matt Mastrianni (.350, 10 2B, 2 HR, 26 RBI) and Chris Dick (.319, 10 2B, 4 HR, 26 RBI), while Andrew Bailey (5-3, 3.23) has been the Seahawks’ top hurler. Wagner is coached by former Scarlet Knight second baseman Joe Litterio, now in his fifth season.
RU owns a 15-1 record vs. Lafayette under head coach Fred Hill, using 10 innings to record a 10-7 victory last season, and a 7-0-1 record vs. Wagner, outscoring the Seahawks 26-1 in two games in 2003.