Rutgers hopes for repeat performance

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights baseball team can claim what not too many others around the nation can. Its not every year a team comes into Mark Light Stadium and leaves with a series-victory after taking two of three games from the University of Miami Hurricanes. The Hurricanes have lost three series at home since 1998 with two of those setbacks coming last season.

One of those teams was Cal-State Fullerton, beating the Hurricanes three consecutive times on the final weekend of March. The other? The Scarlet Knights pulled it off in early March with victories in the opening and closing games of the series against the Hurricanes.

The Scarlet Knights are back in town.

Rutgers (6-3), coming off a series in which they dropped two of three games to Tulane, opens a three-game series against the Hurricanes Friday, Mar. 15, at the ‘Light'. Rutgers, who hasn't played at home this season, will be participating in their fourth consecutive series on the road. The defending national champion Hurricanes are 10-9 after losing to Ball State this past Wednesday. At this point last season, Miami was sporting a record of 16-3.

Both teams will also play games Saturday Mar. 16 (7 p.m.) and Mar. 17 (1 p.m.). Fox Sports Net will televise Saturday's contest, while UM student radio 90.5 FM will broadcast the entire the series.

The Scarlet Knights, with just seven pitchers on their staff, will start ace right-hander Bobby Brownlie (2-1, 2.25 ERA) in the opener with the Hurricanes answering with junior Troy Roberson (1-0, 3.97). Brownlie, an All-American, gave up seven runs (four earned) and 10 hits in a loss to the Hurricanes last season.

Senior left-hander Tom Crohan (1-1, 5.74) will start Saturday with sophomore T.J. Prunty (2-0, 4.15) slated to oppose him. Rutgers senior Tom Wheeler (2-0, 3.68), who earned the win in a 5-3 victory over Tulane earlier this week. will start the final game of the series with Dan Touchet (1-0, 4.76 ) opening for Miami.

Former UM All-American Stan Jakubowski (1973-76) will throw out the ceremonial first pitch tonight, while the first 500 fans attending Saturday night will receive a set of baseball cards.

The Hurricanes will have to deal with Rutgers Preseason All-American Val Majewski, second on the team with a .361 batting average (13-for-36). The junior 6-2, 200-pound Majewski has two home runs and five RBI on the season. First-year outfielder Jeff Frazier will bring a team-leading .429 into the series along with being tied with Tim Sweeney with six RBI.

Junior first-baseman Steve Normane (.353) has provided Rutgers with another big bat in the early portion of the season. Normane has 12 hits in 34 at-bats and produced a .389 on-base percentage.

Before being reached for 12 runs and 11 hits by Ball State, Hurricanes pitching was battered by South Florida in their last series, Mar. 8-10. UM's staff gave up 25 runs and 35 hits in the series, including 16 extra-base hits. South Florida had three home runs in a 13-7 victory in the middle game of the series. The Hurricanes overall ERA is at 5.57.

The Hurricanes starters on the mound all struggled for the most part with Prunty turning in the longest outing of the weekend with 5 2/3 innings in the opener. Prunty allowed four runs on eight hits, coming away with a no-decision in a 7-6 South Florida win. Sophomore right-hander Dan Touchet, making his first start for the Hurricanes, pitched five innings in a 8-5 UM in the series finale.

Offensively, the Hurricanes have picked it up from an early-season slump. After starting out the season hitting .251 after six games, Miami is hitting .321 as a team and has outscored their opposition 141-134. Miami has at least one home run in their last 13 games. UM has six players over the .300 mark.

Leading the way for Miami is senior shortstop Javy Rodriguez at .420. Rodriguez (34-for-81 on the season has scored 19 runs and added 13 stolen bases. Sophomore Jim Burt, hitting .388 with a .781 slugging percentage, has supplied a lot of power with 5 home runs to go with a 23 RBI.

Junior Danny Matienzo, at .361, has a team-leading eight home runs and tied with Burt at 23 RBI. Senior Matt Dryer is hitting .391 with three home runs and 18 RBI. Kevin Howard (5 HR, 13 RBI) is hitting .333, while Kevin Mannix (3 HR, 15 RBI) is at .319 . Dryer (15), Howard (14) and Matienzo (13) all have current hitting streaks.

UM leads the all-time series 31-7 which started in 1967. The Scarlet Knights lost two of three in Coral Gables in 2000.

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