PISCATAWAY, N.J. (April 22, 2010) – The No. 21 Rutgers baseball team, winners of six straight, travels to Storrs, Conn. for a three-game series with No. 19 Connecticut in a matchup of BIG EAST leaders. The Scarlet Knights and Huskies, who share the league lead with identical 10-2 conference records, will open the series with a 3 p.m. game Friday, followed by a 1 p.m. contest Saturday and a noon game Sunday at J.O. Christian Field.
Rutgers is 21-13 overall and off to its best start since 2004 after sweeping USF in a three-game series at Bainton Field last weekend. The 10-2 mark in league play is also RU’s best start since the 2004 season. The Scarlet Knights entered the national rankings this week, debuting at No. 21 in the Collegiate Baseball national poll. The Scarlet Knights have won six straight weekend series with sweeps over Florida International, Georgetown and USF and two victories apiece against Old Dominion, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame.
The Rutgers offense has produced five or more runs in 18 straight games, including 28 in last weekend’s three-game series against USF, who came in to the series with a 3.71 team earned run average.
Juniors Pat Biserta (Pt. Pleasant, N.J.) and Michael Lang (Dumont, N.J.) have combined for nearly half of Rutgers’ home runs this season with 24 of the team’s 50 blasts on the year. Biserta leads the league and is tied for fourth nationally in home runs per game. RU is on pace to shatter the school record for home runs in a season, which is currently 63 blasts recorded in the 2007 campaign. The Scarlet Knights’ 50 blasts rank 18th nationally in home runs per game.
Freshman righty Jerry Elsing (Montville, N.J.) will be on the mound for RU in the series opener with senior righty Casey Gaynor (Toms River, N.J.) working Saturday’s contest and freshman lefty Dan O’Neill (Garfield, N.J.) pitching Sunday’s series finale. Elsing will make his fourth consecutive start in the series opener after pitching into the fifth inning last Friday against USF. Gaynor will be eyeing the school’s innings pitched record when he takes the mound on Saturday. The senior, who will be making his school-record 47th career start, is two-thirds of an inning shy of the late Darrin Winston’s school-record total of 278.0 career innings from 1985-88. O’Neill is coming off a career-long seven inning performance without an earned run allowed in the win against the Bulls last Sunday.
Connecticut enters the weekend on an 18-game winning streak with a 29-7 record overall and the 10-2 mark in conference play.
The Huskies are ranked No. 19 nationally by Collegiate Baseball and No. 21 by Baseball America.
During the winning streak, the Huskies have swept West Virginia, Villanova and Georgetown in league action. UConn is coming off midweek victories over Fairfield (12-2), Rhode Island (14-9) and host Holy Cross Thursday prior to the weekend series with RU.
Connecticut has the league’s best earned run average with a 3.43 ERA as a staff, which also ranks as the ninth-lowest nationally. The Huskies are very aggressive on the base paths with 103 stolen bases on the season – the seventh-most in the country. Junior lefty Elliot Gwynn (3-2, 2.45 ERA) will get the ball in Friday’s series opener, while junior lefty Greg Nappo (5-3, 4.41 ERA) will toe the rubber in Saturday’s contest and sophomore righty Matt Barnes (6-0, 2.20 ERA) will pitch Sunday’s series finale for the Huskies.
Junior first baseman Mike Nemeth is hitting a team-best .408 for UConn with 11 doubles and eight home runs. Sophomore outfielder George Springer has a team-high 10 home runs and 18 stolen bases on the season. The Huskies biggest threat on the base paths is sophomore shortstop Nick Ahmed with 25 stolen bases on 30 attempts on the year.
Rutgers and Connecticut have met 46 times previously on the diamond with the Scarlet Knights holding a 29-17 advantage in the all-time series. Gaynor pitched a complete game with eight strikeouts and just one earned run allowed to earn the win last year against UConn.