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Rutgers Softball heads into Big Ten play ahead of the game

A winning record gives a boost as they take on Wisconsin on Friday

Rutgers Athletics

As we sit in Central Jersey watching the snow fall on this spring day - and expecting anywhere from 6-12 inches of the white stuff - you wonder what’s on the ground in Wisconsin. That’s the next stop for RU Softball as they begin conference play this weekend.

Rutgers wrapped up its tournament part of the schedule with a 15-14 record. It doesn’t seem all that great except it’s way ahead of last year’s opening segment when the team went 7-19 en route to a 14-37 season (5-15 B1G).

And that is where head coach Jay Nelson hopes to improve even more as the Knights open conference play on Friday, starting a three game set with the Badgers.

RU finished its tournament play over the weekend, taking two of five at the Bear Classic at Mercer in Georgia. It included a stunning come from behind win over Bucknell on Sunday. The Knights scored six runs in the bottom of the seventh to win it, 10-9. The scarlet sent 11 betters to the plate in the inning with senior catcher Sierra Maddox providing the game-winning RBI for the walk off.

From, Jay Nelson commented how proud he was of the comeback. “I’m glad to see them fight back until the end,” said head coach Nelson. “It shows there’s no quit in this team. We were waiting for our pitches and being patient. We also had some great hustle plays that kept us alive during that final inning.”

As a team, RU is batting .254, which actually puts the team sixth in the Big Ten, a point ahead of Wisconsin. Rebecca Hall’s .392 BA is fourth best in the conference, and her 40 hits are second most.

While neither picked up wins in Georgia, Keefer Cambria (5-7) and Whitney Jones (6-5) continue to be the team’s strength in the circle. Their 3.16 and 3.20 ERAs, respectively, lead the staff which has a 3.78 ERA. And, again, that is far ahead of 2017 when the staff ERA was 6.87.

Big Ten

As conference play opens up this weekend, Ohio State and Michigan are the top teams in the conference in terms of record. They are also the only two Big Ten squads in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches poll (Michigan at 17, OSU at 18). Nebraska received votes in the poll.

On the Banks graphic

Big Ten Awards

Player of the Week

Lilli Piper, Ohio State || SS – Jr.

  • Batted .565 with a .600 on-base percentage and 1.043 slugging percentage last week, collecting three home runs, nine RBI and scoring eight runs to help No. 17/18 Ohio State win five of seven games
  • Had at least one hit in six games last week, including four multi-hit games and a stretch of nine hits in nine official at-bats that included two doubles, a home run, five RBI and five runs scored
  • Added four multi-RBI games last week, including three RBI against Grand Canyon last Friday

Pitcher and Co-Freshman of the Week

Sarah Schaefer, Michigan || RHP – Fr.

  • Went 2-0 in the circle with a 0.00 ERA and two complete games, adding 12 strikeouts and no walks while allowing just three hits in 12.0 innings, helping the No. 19 Wolverines sweep four games at the Miami University Invitational
  • Tossed a five-inning perfect game against Robert Morris on Sunday, striking out six and needing just 49 pitches to secure Michigan’s first perfect game since May 14, 2011 (Jordan Taylor at Michigan State – also five innings)
  • Added a complete-game three-hit shutout of Dayton last Saturday, recording six strikeouts

Co-Freshman of the Week

Bella Loya, Illinois || C

  • Batted .500 with a .550 on-base percentage and a 1.111 slugging percentage last week, hitting three home runs with five RBI and five runs scored as Illinois won five of six games
  • Recorded at least one hit in all six Fighting Illini games with three multi-hit outings
  • Hit home runs in three consecutive games, including both ends of a doubleheader sweep at Fresno State last Friday