PISCATAWAY, N.J. (BVM) – Rutgers baseball is currently enjoying one of its best seasons to date behind a 44-15 record. A big reason behind the team’s success can be linked back to longtime head coach Steve Owens.
Owens started his coaching career in 1991 as an assistant for Ithaca, before capturing the head coaching job at Cortland the year after. In Cortland he’d win seven conference championships in eight years.
30 seasons later, he’s still going strong.
When Rutgers hired Owens, they were expecting a winner. In his last stint with Bryant, he had a 328-184-2 record with three conference tournament championships and five coach of the year awards, including four in five years from 2012-2016. As the Scarlet Knights’ head coach he holds a 71-47 record. In 2022, the first full season he coached, he led Rutgers baseball to its first winning record as a member of the Big Ten conference.
“[Steve Owens] has the program way ahead of schedule,” Rutgers athletic director Pat Hobbs told On the Banks. “I should say I’m surprised but I’m not based on the job he did previously at Bryant.”
One of the most impressive stats for the Rutgers baseball program was their .979 fielding percentage, which led the Big Ten. Fielding does take some natural skill but mostly it takes extreme discipline. The best coaches can make any player a fundamental fielder. Not everyone can make sparkling plays but if a coach can discipline his team into minimizing errors it helps win ball games.
The most impressive part behind the team’s success comes with the young roster Owens achieved it with. The roster featured just one senior and twelve sophomores, making up more than a third of the roster. It’s not common for young teams to be this disciplined but Owens found a way.
Unfortunately, Rutgers narrowly missed out on being selected to play in the college baseball tournament. They were unable to win the Big Ten tournament which would’ve guaranteed them a spot. Despite its sparkling record, the Scarlet Knights losses against top opponents were held against them in the selection process.
Even without a chance in the tournament, Owens still put the college baseball world on notice. With his success, many have speculated that he may be snagged by an ACC or SEC team soon.
“I can see the ACC especially because of Steve’s connections and relationships on the East Coast,” Big Ten analyst Michael Huff said. “I can see the SEC, at some point, you know, two or three years down the road. My hope is that the Big Ten does enough… to promote Big Ten baseball, that there’s enough meat on the bone there that keeps someone in a place that seems to be a really good fit, rather than that person thinking, ‘I can’t get to the highest level if I’m in the Big Ten.’”
Regardless of where the future leads him it’s clear Owens has Rutgers and the Big Ten moving in the right direction.