Series Preview: Rutgers Scarlet Knights (23-25, 6-12 Big Ten)

By Ben Harris

Rutgers will take the three-hour trip down I-95 to College Park this weekend in the penultimate conference series for each of the Big Ten’s two easternmost schools.

While Maryland (25-22, 10-8 Big Ten) would sneak in as the eighth and final seed in the conference tournament if the season ended today, the Scarlet Knights (23-25, 6-12 Big Ten) are all but eliminated from contention. Last week’s home series loss to Illinois didn’t do the Terps any favors. Any cushion could have benefited the Terps as they still must face Michigan State in East Lansing next weekend.

The series will pit the worst offense in conference play (Maryland, .231/.327/.317) against the worst pitching staff in Big Ten play (Rutgers, 6.19 ERA).

Before being swept in three straight games by Michigan last week, Rutgers had put together a 9-5 run with series wins against St. Joseph’s, Penn State and solid midweek play.rutgers-series-graphic.png

The Scarlet Knights are led offensively by senior catcher R.J. Devish, one of the best players in the nation at getting on base. His .525 on-base percentage is ninth highest in the NCAA and tops in the Big Ten, and his 50 runs, 56 hits 38 walks are all far and away the most on the club. Those 50 runs scored are also the most in the conference.

With a .375 batting average, fifth highest in the Big Ten, Devish is the only Scarlet Knight in the conference’s top 42 hitters. His 23 stolen bases are one fewer than the entire Terps team has swiped all season, and more than any catcher in the NCAA.

Rutgers as a team have stolen 102 bases becoming the first Big Ten club to do so since 2013.

Despite missing the last two weeks serving a suspension for violating unspecified athletic department rules, freshman speedster and two-sport star Jawuan Harris still leads the conference in stolen bases (23), a mark that ranks ninth nationally. He took a redshirt as a freshman this fall for the football team.

Outfielder Mike Carter, who wears a cage-adorned batting helmet after a bunting drill gone wrong leading up to his freshman season, is slashing .395/.457/.444 from the left side in 23 games this season.

STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP

FRI 6:30 pm EST

Rutgers_athletics_logo.svg.png  RU: BSBALL Portraits  vs.  1Shawaryn  1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo

LHP Howie Brey (5-4, 3.19 ERA) vs. RHP Mike Shawaryn (4-4, 3.32 ERA)

Rutgers ace Howie Brey, the Big Ten innings leader, will get the ball on Friday as per usual. The senior southpaw Brey threw three complete games in the month of April alone (all against conference opponents) and enters the weekend with 68 strikeouts and 18 walks. He has, however, allowed 21 extra base hits, the most on the club. Mike Shawaryn has settled back into his usual Friday role, tossing a gem last week and shutting out the Fighting Illini through eight innings to the tune of three hits and ten strikeouts. In his last two starts, his ERA is 1.22 (two earned runs, 14 strikeouts, two walks).

STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP

SAT 2:00 pm EST

Rutgers_athletics_logo.svg.png  RU: BSBALL Portraits  vs.  1Bloom  1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo

RHP John O’Reilly (0-5, 5.37 ERA) vs. RHP Taylor Bloom (6-3, 1.99 ERA)

Still in search for his first win, John O’Reilly will take the mound for the Scarlet Knights Saturday. In 11 starts this year, opponents are hitting .267 against him, and, despite his high ERA, has only allowed 18 percent of his hits to go for extra bases. Taylor Bloom has been downright dominant making his case for Big Ten Pitcher of the Year accolades. His 1.99 ERA is best in the conference, and he’s gone the distance in three of his last five starts, including his last two (three runs, nine strikeouts, one walk).

STARTING PITCHING MATCHUP

SAT 1:00 pm EST

Rutgers_athletics_logo.svg.png  RU: BSBALL Portraits  vs.  1Shaffer  1Maryland_M_Bar_Primary_Athletic_Logo

RHP Serafino Brito (5-4, 4.61 ERA) vs. RHP Brian Shaffer (5-3, 2.97 ERA)

Serafino Brito has been very lucky this season. His 4.61 ERA, nearly a point and a half above that of Brey, has rewarded him with an identical 5-4 record. His extra base hit percentage, roughly 25 percent, is significantly higher than O’Reillys who is still winless. Excelling in his Sunday rotation slot, Brian Shaffer posted another quality start (the sixth in his last eight starts) last week against Illinois with a four-hit, seven-strikeout performance over seven strong innings.

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