MORGANTOWN, WV – The streaking Rutgers baseball team, off to a 16-9 start and a 5-1 mark in BIG EAST play, will return to action with a three-game series vs. West Virginia (12-18, 2-5 BE) this weekend in Morgantown. The Scarlet Knights, which swept a doubleheader from Notre Dame on Monday and edged Monmouth in midweek action on Wednesday, have won four in a row and eight of its last 10. The win over Monmouth was also the 700th at Rutgers for venerable head coach Fred Hill.
A solid lineup and outstanding starting pitching have propelled Rutgers to its best BIG EAST start since 2000, when the Scarlet Knights won their first 11 conference games. RU is hitting .272 as a team in conference play, led by Jeff Grose (Iselin, NJ), who has surged offensively after a slow start to the 2005 season. Grose, who hit .186 through his first 10 games, has raised his average to .267 overall with a team-best .409 mark in league play. Just as important has been his on-base percentage (.481). Seniors Rich Canuso (Monroe, NJ) and Cory Rodriguez (Bridgewater, NJ) have anchored the middle of the lineup, hitting .357 and .348, respectively, in league play, while freshman Todd Frazier (Toms River, NJ) is hitting .286, but owns a .407 on-base percentage from the leadoff spot. Johnny Defendis (Staten Island, NY) is hitting .351 overall and leads the team in hits (39) and RBI (21).
The RU starting staff has been the most impressive aspect of the team’s recent success, posting a combined 2.23 ERA in BIG EAST play. This weekend, RU head coach will send senior Aaron Kalb (Middletown, NJ), junior OJ DeChristofano (Pequannock, NJ) and sophomore Steve Holt (Toms River, NJ) to the mound. Kalb is 1-0 in league play with a 2.92 ERA and 3-1, 4.98 overall. DeChristofano, who began the season in the bullpen, is also 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in league play and 3-1, 5.09 overall. Holt, arguably the most pleasant development thus far in 2005, beat Pittsburgh in his lone BIG EAST start, allowing just one run on two hits in 7.1 innings and is 2-0, 3.95 overall, also beating Minnesota in his first career start. Freshman Tim Woodhull (Princeton Jct., NJ) (2-0, 1 save, 2.53) headlines the bullpen effort.
West Virginia dropped two of three at Connecticut last weekend and split a doubleheader with Savannah State in its most recent action heading into the weekend. Lee Fritz, one of the top hitters in the conference, paces the Mountaineers in average (.368), hits (39) and RBI (61), while Doug Nelms (.354), Justin Jenkins (.333, 6 HR) and Chad McKown (.324, 7 HR) are also off to strong starts for an offense that is hitting .291 overall and averaging 4.8 runs/game. Although WVU head coach Greg Van Zandt, who won his 300th career game earlier this week, has yet to announce his weekend starters, Chris Amedro (3-2, 5.55) and Wes Osbourn (3-2, 5.03) are likely to start. Todd Dunham (0-1, 5.76, 4 saves) serves as the team’s late-inning specialist.
Rutgers is 27-15 overall vs. WVU in a series that gained competitiveness in the Atlantic 10 Conference, when both teams battled annually for the conference crown. Since moving into the BIG EAST in 1996, Rutgers owns an 18-4 advantage in the series, including 16 of the last 17. Last season in Piscataway, Rutgers swept a three-game series from WVU while in 2003, the teams split a doubleheader in Morgantown, but RU bounced the Mountaineers from the BIG EAST Tournament with an 8-7 victory on May 23.
Other BIG EAST Action
Pittsburgh at Connecticut
St. John's at Georgetown
Seton Hall at Villanova
Notre Dame at Boston College (Brockton, MA)