Baseball team set for rival Rutgers this weekend
The Seton Hall baseball team will open 2012 Big East Conference play on Friday evening by hosting its rivals from down the N.J. Turnpike, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, in a three-game weekend series at Owen T. Carroll Field.
The Pirates (9-10) are coming off a 3-1 loss to St. Peter’s at home on Tuesday afternoon.
Sophomore Brian Gilbert pitched five innings, giving up just two earned runs while striking out four and walking none.
The Pirates, however, could not get the big hit, stranding nine runners on the base paths.
For Seton Hall, Friday marks the start of their conference schedule after a non-conference schedule consisting of five games against teams from the Big-10 conference and a three-game true road series in Knoxville, Tenn. against the Tennessee Volunteers. Head Coach Rob Sheppard believes that the challenging schedule was necessary for the Pirates.
“Coming from the northeast, I think you always want to have a tough non-conference schedule to get you ready for your conference schedule,” Sheppard said. “I think playing those teams, like Virginia, Tennessee, Michigan State … those games really set the tone for us going into our conference schedule.”
Despite the rough early-season schedule, the Pirates had some work to do replacing some key spots in their lineup from last season. Sheppard believes that is almost figured out.
“Obviously, we lost our four seniors from last year and we spent some time finding guys who could fill those roles. At this point, we’ve done that,” Sheppard said. “We had some players have some minor injuries. That kind of slowed that down, but we have a good idea of what guys are capable of doing.”
Rutgers (9-9) comes into conference play having won six of their last eight games, including a 5-0 win over Rider in their home opener on Wednesday afternoon.
The first 27 of the Scarlet Knights’ games are on the road, including their matchup with the Pirates.
“It’s absolutely intense,” said Sheppard, when asked about the rivalry between the two schools. He added that the intensity doesn’t just happen on the field.
“Our guys know their guys from high school, from the recruiting process, through the fans in general,” he said. “Rutgers has some guys that we recruited, and we have some guys that they recruited, so there is some crossover regarding the type of players we like to have in our programs.”
Last season the Pirates finished fifth in the Big East and became the lowest seeded team to ever win the Big East Championship. Coach Sheppard believes that has added a little wrinkle into the season for his team.
“I think people have a better feel of what we’re about,” Sheppard said. “I tell our team every day that we have to go out and play regardless if we’re the 13th team or the fifth team. I think what [the championship] has done is show the other teams in the conference what we’re capable of doing.”
First pitch for Friday’s game is scheduled for 6 p.m., with junior right-hander Jon Prosinski scheduled to start for the Pirates.
Saturday’s and Sunday’s games will both begin at 1 p.m., with junior Ricky Mangione and freshman right-hander Jose Lopez slated to start for the Hall in the final two games of the series.
Jason Guerette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.