Before their weekend series with Michigan, I wrote that this was an opportunity for the softball team to show whether they were pretenders or contenders. Well, ladies, I stand self-corrected. While Rutgers (20-12, 7-5) may not be contenders, just yet, they are certainly not pretenders.
On the other hand, the Wolverines (37-6, 10-2) are very much contenders, as UM swept Rutgers - the first Big Ten series loss for RU - in convincing fashion. Two 10-run rule losses started the series, with the Knights going the full seven innings in the finale loss on Sunday.
Michigan is a dominating team. They are ranked No. 4 for a reason. They have the conference's second best batting average (.343), best ERA (1.65), the best slugging and on-base percentages, and have more homeruns than anyone else - by 21! And they racked up 11 of them against the Knights.
The Michigan series drew well, even on Friday on a chilly afternoon. The three game set drew 745 fans, including 361 on Saturday, the largest crowd in two years.
The three game sweep is not the end of the world for Rutgers. There is still a lot of softball to play. Jay Nelson needs to turn his team around quickly, prep for a midweek doubleheader against Villanova, along with a single game at Seton Hall, and then get ready to rejoin the B1G fray on the road in a very important series at Ohio State. The Buckeyes are right behind RU in the standings and, from a win-loss perspective, are very close in ability. Gut check time.
Results and Upcoming Schedule
|4/10/15||vs. Michigan *||RU Softball Complex||L, 18-0 (5)|
|4/11/15||vs. Michigan *||RU Softball Complex||L, 16-3 (5)|
|4/12/15||vs. Michigan *||RU Softball Complex||L, 5-0|
|4/14/15||at Seton Hall||South Orange, N.J.||4:00 p.m. ET|
|4/15/15||vs. Villanova||RU Softball Complex||2:30 p.m. ET|
|vs. Villanova||RU Softball Complex||4:30 p.m. ET|
|4/17/15||at Ohio State *||Columbus, Ohio||6:00 p.m. ET|
|4/18/15||at Ohio State *||Columbus, Ohio||2:00 p.m. ET|
|4/19/15||at Ohio State *||Columbus, Ohio||1:00 p.m. ET|
Big Ten Softball Standings
Baseball had a chance to make a statement in the Big Ten. They went into the series at Indiana as one of only five teams with winning records in conference play. They left Bloomington at 5-7 in the conference, pretty much flipping spots with the Hoosiers.
Despite the three losses, the games were each fairly close contests. On Friday in the series opener, Rutgers fell 4-3 to Indiana on a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth. Junior Mark McCoy was effective in his eighth start of the season for the Scarlet Knights with a career-high eight strikeouts over six innings. The left-hander permitted three earned runs in a no-decision.
A 6-0 shutout was, in a way, the outlier, as the Knights lost the finale 5-4 on Sunday. The Knights collected 11 hits in the last game offensively and did not go down in order in any inning during the game. Senior Vinny Zarrillo had a productive day for RU with a double, a single, a walk and a sacrifice bunt, while junior R.J. Devish produced two singles, a walk and two RBIs. Senior Joe D'Annunzio added two hits. It was the 13th time this season the Scarlet Knights picked up double-digit hits.
The series was played in front of 8,669 fans, including 3,328 on Saturday afternoon.
Results and Upcoming Schedule
|4/07/15||vs. Wagner||Bainton Field||L, 11-4|
|4/08/15||at Fordham||Bronx, N.Y.||W, 10-4|
|4/10/15||at Indiana *||Bloomington, Ind.||L, 4-3|
|4/11/15||at Indiana *||Bloomington, Ind.||L, 6-0|
|4/12/15||at Indiana *||Bloomington, Ind.||L, 5-4|
|4/14/15||at Lafayette||Easton, Pa.||3:30 p.m. ET|
|4/15/15||vs. Columbia||Bainton Field||3:30 p.m. ET|
|4/17/15||vs. Michigan State *||Bainton Field||3:00 p.m. ET|
|4/18/15||vs. Michigan State *||Bainton Field||1:00 p.m. ET|
|4/19/15||vs. Michigan State *||Bainton Field||1:00 p.m. ET|
A home series this weekend at home against MSU could very well be a key for the rest of the season. The Spartans are just ahead of RU in the standings, and also have a losing Big Ten record.
Big Ten Baseball Standings