NCAA Baseball

Rutgers baseball knocking on NCAA regional door ahead of critical games with Indiana, Nebraska


Rutgers baseball’s biggest homestand since the Todd Frazier era is here.

The Scarlet Knights will host a three-team Big Ten pod with first-place Indiana and third-place Nebraska at Bainton Field in Piscataway. Rutgers will play four games — the Hoosiers on Friday and Saturday, the Cornhuskers on Sunday and Monday — as it makes a push for its first NCAA Regional appearance in 14 years.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of the weekend:

Surging Scarlet Knights. Rutgers has been the talk of the nation the past few days after a pair of statement series wins. The Scarlet Knights took two of three at Michigan two weekends ago — the Wolverines are currently tied atop the league with Indiana and were the 2019 College World Series runners-up — and then swept then-first place Nebraska last weekend in Lincoln. Rutgers has won five straight entering the weekend and is currently tied for fourth place in the loss column.

NCAA outlook. Both Baseball America and D1Baseball project the Scarlet Knights among the first five teams out of their respective current 64-team regional projections. Rutgers, which has not made a regional since 2007, is hampered at the moment by two factors — its RPI is only 62nd nationally given the Big Ten’s decision to play a league-only schedule and Iowa, which took three of four in Piscataway last month, is currently ahead of the Scarlet Knights if the Big Ten is given a fourth bid (which it is in both projections).

The good news for Rutgers. A strong overall record should outweigh any RPI deficiency, and the Scarlet Knights still have plenty of opportunity to further burnish their resume. This weekend will be key, of course, but Rutgers’ final 10 games of the regular season after this pod will come against teams in the conference’s second division. The Scarlet Knights also won their season series with Ohio State and split the season series with Maryland — the only other Big Ten teams that are in the NCAA hunt. Rutgers would almost assuredly be at No. 3 seed in a four-team regional; it would need a torrid end to the season to have a shot at a No. 2 seed.

Take me out to the ballgame. Yes, fans will be allowed at Bainton Field this weekend. Rutgers has revised its COVID-19 attendance policy after New Jersey raised the outdoor gathering limit to 500 people. A full rundown of how the plan works can be found here.

   

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James Kratch may be reached at jkratch@njadvancemedia.com.

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