Rutgers played the ultimate getaway game.
The red-hot Scarlet Knights clobbered Wagner in Tuesday’s home opener at Bainton Field, slugging six home runs and pounding out 17 hits in an 18-1 win to improve to 10-1. And then a shower, dinner, some sleep and it was off to paradise.
Rutgers will open its long-awaited four-game series at Hawaii on Friday – a road trip years, and a few coaching changes, in the making.
“It’s a fun trip, a nice trip to help recruit,” Rutgers coach Steve Owens said. “It’s a cool experience for our players, and we’re looking forward to it.”
The Scarlet Knights booked the trip several years ago under former coach Joe Litterio. When Owens was hired in 2019, he chose to keep the series on schedule. Rutgers then had to re-verify the series when Hawaii made a coaching change last summer. But when the Rainbow Warriors’ new staff signed off, it was all systems go.
Rutgers caught a break when baseball operations director Pete Barron was able to get the team on a non-stop United flight from Newark. The team left campus at 5:45 am ET Wednesday for an 8:30 am ET flight and landed in Honolulu about 11 hours later, at around 2:30 pm local time (7:30 pm back home).
The top priority upon landing (and during the flight): Hydrate. Al doilea? Stay up. No naps, no going to bed on East Coast time. Some sunset beach yoga, a light practice and a team meal were thrown in to make sure everyone got acclimated to the time change.
Rutgers was scheduled to visit Pearl Harbor late Thursday afternoon local time. The first game of the weekend is Friday night at 11:35 pm ET – just like that random Hawaii-UNLV football game you’ve watched while battling insomnia. The Scarlet Knights will play a doubleheader Saturday – games at 6 and 9 pm ET – and the fourth game Sunday at 6 pm ET.
The team will practice and have a luau Monday, then practice again Tuesday before leaving the island for the second, and far less exciting, leg of the spring break trip.
“The real issue is going to be coming back, going to Hawaii to Omaha,” Barron said.
Rutgers originally planned to fly to California and play against Sacramento State and San Francisco after leaving Hawaii. But those programs had to cancel due to conference schedule obligations this offseason, which left Owens scrambling for a new opponent. He lucked out in finding a weekend series at Nebraska-Omaha, which made the NCAA Tournament last year and will help the Scarlet Knights’ RPI. But the change of plans presents some challenges.
Rutgers had to ship all of its cold weather gear to Omaha – you don’t bring your parkas to Wakiki Beach – and the time changes will again be tricky. Rutgers leaves Honolulu at around 8 pm local time and then will land in Houston around 8 am CT. Then there is a four-hour layover before landing in Omaha, with two days to get adjusted before beginning the three-game series (and because you can never have enough logistics, the Scarlet Knights will then need to connect in Atlanta to get home and end the 12-day journey).
“We’ll try to rest up,” Owens said. “But we don’t have to go all the way back to the east coast. At least we’re going to the middle of the country. ”
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James Kratch may be reached at email@example.com.