JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Sometimes the game does come down to how you start. Slow starts by the Dolphins in both games on Saturday proved to be costly as Rutgers swept a double header by scores of 6-2 and 10-2 on Saturday at Sessions Stadium.
“Whenever you give up big numbers in the first couple of innings you end up pressing offensively,” said Head Coach Tim Montez. “You are not going to see that very often from two of our top guys in the starting rotation, but you have to tip your hat to Rutgers, they came out with an aggressive approach swung at the fastball and didn’t miss many.”
In the opener Rutgers (2-4) jumped on Jacksonville (1-5) early on with two runs in the top of the first coming on two singles and a double. They added three more in the second as they reached Dolphin starter Alex McRae (West Allis, Wis.) for three hits and a walk to build a 5-0 advantage. A leadoff home run in the third by Lou Clemente would then make 6-0 in favor of the Scarlet Knights.
While the other side was finding holes early on, it took the Dolphins a while to get things going offensively. Sophomore Michael Babb (Jacksonville, Fla.) had Jacksonville’s only hit in the first four innings as he led off the third with a single.
“He did a nice job out there and it was good to have him back,” said Montez of the rightfielder who went 2-for-4 at the plate with a pair of walks and a pair of stolen bases on the day.
Sophomore Josh Baker (Sussex, Wis.) took over for McRae in the top of the third and threw five scoreless innings allowing five hits with four strikeouts. Freshman Justin Lawrence (Jacksonville, Fla.) then took over in the ninth retiring the Scarlet Knights in order.
“In games like today you have to look for the positives and the one positive I saw in both games was our bullpen,” added Montez. “We had some young guys come out of the pen and do a good job so that was a positive.”
With Baker and Lawrence keeping the Rutgers hitters at bay, sophomore Nate Ricci (Madison, Wis.) finally put Jacksonville on the board in the eighth. Ricci connected on his fourth career long ball when he sent a pinch hit homer on an 0-2 count over the fence in right. Angelo Amendolare (Edgewater, Fla.) followed with a single and a stolen base and would later score on a RBI ground out by Connor Marabell (Jacksonville, Fla.) that made it 6-2 heading to the ninth.
A pair of two out singles in the ninth gave the Dolphins one last shot, but a full count strikeout by Ricci ended the game. Howie Brey (1-0) picked up the win for Rutgers going six innings and allowing three hits. McRae (0-2) was charged with the loss.
In game two, Rutgers wasted no time in attacking Jacksonville starter Justin Russell (Jacksonville, Fla.) The Scarlet Knights sent 11 batters to the plate and scored seven runs on seven hits. Marabell would get a run back in the third for the Dolphins with a one-out double to score Amendolare.
After Scarlet Knights counter with a pair of two-out unearned runs in the fourth, the Dolphins missed an opportunity to climb back in the game in the bottom half of the inning. Jacksonville loaded the bases with no outs, but came away with only a single run when senior Drew Luther (Fullerton, Calif.) drew a two-out walk to force in Parker Perez (Winter Springs, Fla.) after his double lead off the inning.
Jacksonville again left the bases loaded in the fifth as a total of 13 Dolphins were left on base for the night cap. Russell (1-1) took the loss, while Kyle Driscoll (1-0) earned the win by tossing four innings and allowing two runs on four hits.
“They did a great job of slugging us in the mouth first and we didn’t do a good job of answering back at any point and time,” Montez said. “We have to be a little more aggressive at the plate and compete better with two strikes.”
Amendolare was 3-for-6 with a pair of runs scored on the day for the Dolphins.
“We are really going to see what type of club we are tomorrow with how we answer back,” added Montez. “I don’t think today was our best effort at all, our guys still have more in them and they have to learn to figure out what that extra gear is this early in the season because with the strength of schedule we play it's not going to get any easier. We got some work left to do and we’ll see what kind of leadership we have going into tomorrow's game.”
Sunday’s game has been moved up to a 12:00 pm start due to the late afternoon forecast in the Jacksonville area.