Knights search for power in California
It is uncertain which Rutgers softball team will show up this weekend — the one that hit five home runs in its opening tournament in San Antonio, or the team that only hit one last weekend at the Leadoff Classic in Florida.
Junior outfielder Jackie Bates, who hit a home run in each tournament, thinks this season’s team will ultimately be the former.
“It’s pretty interesting that we had so many home runs in the first weekend,” Bates said. “I definitely wasn’t expected to hit that many, but I think that definitely this year we’ll have a lot more power, especially the top of the lineup.”
Bates is already a third of the way to her home run total (six) from a season ago.
She earned tournament MVP at the Leadoff Classic with a .438 average, three doubles and nine RBI in addition to her home run.
Bates and the Scarlet Knights (5-5) travel to Northridge, Calif. for three games against Portland State (2-8) and two games against Cal State-Northridge (7-8) starting tomorrow.
The Lincroft, N.J., native is not worried about traveling to the west coast.
“It’s a little difficult with the time change, but we are kind of used to it because in the fall, we were used to waking up at five in the morning for practice,” Bates said.
With seven players who call California home, some may actually feel more comfortable breathing Pacific. For comparison, seven Rutgers players stayed in-state.
Junior lefthander Alyssa Landrith (2-3), a native of northern California, is the ace of a young rotation.
Despite earning two losses in three decisions last weekend, Landrith impressed.
In a win against Massachusetts, she pitched a complete game shutout, striking out 11 while allowing only three hits.
In her third game of the weekend, she pitched 6.0 innings in relief of freshman Aubrie Levine, striking out seven against Louisiana-Lafayette.
After senior utility player Natalie Fernandez singled to right for the Ragin’ Cajuns in the bottom of the fifth, freshman infielder Haley Hayden homered off Landrith.
“In my mind, I wasn’t going to start her because she pitched two games,” said head coach Jay Nelson. “I was hopefully going to stay close and bring her in, but I brought her in real early.”
Behind her in the rotation is sophomore Dresden Maddox (2-0).
With two complete games in four starts, Landrith has benefitted from strong run support.
Last Sunday against the College of Charleston, she gave up three runs and six hits in the first four innings, but her team compensated with 11 runs and the game was called in the sixth inning.
Against Wichita State on Feb. 14, the lefty gave up a home run to start the second, but her team responded with four runs in the bottom of the third to make the score 6-1. The game ended 9-1 after the fifth.
In Landrith’s two other appearances, she was pulled after only 2.1 innings pitched. Maddox is well behind Landrith’s 35 innings pitched for second on the team with 15 and two thirds.
“I’ve had a couple innings where I haven’t done outstanding, but the games that I have completed, I’m happy with and hopefully I can keep going,” Maddox said.
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