With a three game sweep of Indiana, the Rutgers Softball team contributed to last weekend's stellar Big Ten weekend at home.
With six conference games left, all on the road, softball will be hard-pressed to make the Big Ten Softball Tournament for the second year. The challenge is increased as the squad faces league leader and No. 2 Michigan to close out the season. The top eight teams make the championships, this year held at Penn State from May 12-14.
Currently there is a three-way tie for the eighth spot, and RU is one of those three. Alphabetically, Illinois is there first and faces 3-14 (B1G) Iowa at home before closing the season on the road against third place Penn State. The other squad, Purdue, faces sixth place Nebraska on the road before closing out at home versus fifth place Northwestern. All in all, it's anyone's spot to take.
In the conference, Rutgers is in the bottom half in most statistical categories. Pitching, an absolute necessity in softball, has been an issue for the Knights. Graduated Alyssa Landrith was a workhorse in the circle last year, appearing in 30 of the team's 49 games and averaging almost six innings per appearance. The second team All-Big Ten pitcher's 3.30 ERA led the team.
Junior Shayla Sweeney leads the pitching staff with a 4.43 ERA and an 8-6 record. Senior Dresden Maddox leads the team with nine wins. Last year's staff ERA was 4.94. Ironically, thus far this season, the staff ERA is 4.67, yet it ranks 13th in the conference. The opponent's batting average puts the Knights pitchers at 13th worst in the conference, with the other team batting at a .318 clip against Rutgers pitching. RU's own BA is .262, good for 11th.
Four seniors lead the Knights in batting, and Coach Jay Nelson will need to lean on them to produce down the stretch.
Michigan leads the conference in homeruns and most other offensive categories. Rutgers can't compete with the long ball and will have to scratch and claw to keep up with the league leaders. On the flip side, Michigan State is not a good fielding team (13th) and its pitching is not a great deal better than RU's (4.41 staff ERA to RU's 4.67).
The Knights will be fighting for a spot in the championships. They need to start off by repeating last weekend's sweep, this time against the Spartans in EL this weekend.
Remaining Big Ten Schedule
|04/29/16||at Michigan State||4:00 PM|
|04/30/16||at Michigan State||1:00 PM|
|05/01/16||at Michigan State||1:00 PM|
|05/06/16||at Michigan||6:00 PM|
|05/07/16||at Michigan||2:00 PM|
|05/08/16||at Michigan||12:00 PM|