PISCATAWAY, N.J. (February 13, 2013) – Rutgers baseball will open its 144th season of competition this weekend against No. 28 Miami, traveling to Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field to take on the Hurricanes in a three-game series. This is the fifth-consecutive season that the Scarlet Knights will play at Miami to start their campaign.
* - 2012 statistics
The Scarlet Knights return six position players and two weekend starters off a team that went 31-25 in 2012. Senior left-hander Rob Smorol (Clark, N.J.) will make the Opening Night start on the mound against the Hurricanes for the second-straight year after striking out six in four innings of work last season. Selected All-BIG EAST, Smorol tied for the league lead with eight victories and has 17 for his career.
Offensively, RU finished second in the BIG EAST last year in batting average (.292), slugging percentage (.399) and on-base percentage (.380). Junior second baseman Nick Favatella (Washington Township, N.J.) led the returning players in batting average (.333), home runs (5) and RBIs (42). He enters the year on a five-game hitting and nine-game on-base streak. Senior catcher Jeff Melillo (Annandale, N.J.) is coming off a productive summer – winning the batting title in the New England Collegiate Baseball League (.404) – and was named Preseason All-BIG EAST by the league’s coaches.
Head coach Fred Hill enters his 30th season at Rutgers and 37th overall with 1,061 career victories – 13th-most amongst active coaches across the country.
Click here to view the full 2013 season outlook.
The Hurricanes reached the ACC title game last year, hosting an NCAA Regional. The team ranks No. 28 in the Collegiate Baseball poll and returns Brad Fieger as its top statistical hitter. He collected 66 hits to go with 39 RBIs last season. On the mound, left-hander Christian Diaz will start the opener after appearing in 23 games in 2012. Head coach Jim Morris enters his 20th season with the Canes.
Miami leads the all-time series 49-12 dating back to back to 1984, having won the last four meetings. Last season, the Hurricanes swept the tightly-contested series. After five errors led to an opening night loss, RU challenged the perennial powerhouse deep into extra innings in the Saturday game, only to fall on a walk-off three-run home run in the bottom of the 12th. Ryan Fasano gave the Scarlet Knights a quality start with 6.2 innings on the mound with only one run allowed. The bats came alive in the series finale with 12 hits, led by three knocks from Bill Hoermann (Toms River, N.J.) and a home run from Melillo, but the Hurricanes made several key defensive plays to go with a balanced offensive attack to prevail 9-7 going away. The two programs used to both be in the BIG EAST.