July 20, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers flexes power with five home runs in San Antonio

Photo by Nisha Datt |

Junior outfielder Chandler Howard hit two home runs in RU’s opening weekend, including a three-run shot yesterday.

If there was one thing lacking from the Rutgers softball team’s 30-win season last year, it was power.

The top-two home run hitters in the nation each had 30, while the Scarlet Knights had 28 as a team.

Returning their three top hitters from a year ago, the Knights hit five home runs in five games in their opening weekend of play.

Rutgers left San Antonio with a 3-2 record at the Roadrunner Classic hosted by UTSA.

In their last game yesterday, the Knights scored seven runs in the fourth and fifth innings for a 10-6 win against Colorado State (7-3). Junior outfielder Chandler Howard hit a three-run home run for her second of the season.

Rutgers took the lead in the third as freshman infielder Carly Todd singled in two runs for a 3-2 lead.

Freshman righthander Shayla Sweeney allowed two hits and two earned runs in two innings to earn the win.

Sweeney (1-1) and freshman righthander Aubrie Levine (0-0) are competing for the third spot in the rotation.

“Aubrie Levine pitched pretty well [this weekend]. We had a game [against Oklahoma State] that we got beat 8-1, she shut them out for four innings,” said head coach Jay Nelson. “Shayla did not pitch poorly.”

Nelson was more certain about the catcher competition between sophomore Elizabeth Adams and senior Emma Woo, following the graduation of four-year starter Kaci Madden.

“As far as catching goes, Liz has been really good about calling the game, blocking pitches, handling the pitches really well,” Nelson said. “We have to work with her on throwing runners out. [Yesterday], they stole a couple bases on us. We pitched out both times. I think she gets a little excited and we have to calm her down and get her in her comfort zone.”

The Knights split doubleheaders Friday and Saturday.

Rutgers lost Saturday to Oklahoma State (7-3), 8-1, in its first game before shutting out tournament host University of Texas at San Antonio, 5-0.

Rutgers’ ace, junior lefthander Alyssa Landrith (1-1), earned a complete game, one-hit shutout against the Roadrunners (4-5) while also striking out nine batters.

“It was great. It was almost a no-hitter. Our shortstop had to throw backhand side and the girl just beat it out,” said Nelson.

The Knights started the tournament with a 4-2 loss to Colorado State. The Rams put together a four-run rally in the bottom of the seventh when they were down to their last strike.

“We were one strike away from being 4-1. In the first game, we had a 1-and-2 count on the hitter and she rolled one and beat it out and they came back and won that game,” Nelson said. “For our first time out, we did pretty well.”

The loss proved to be the Knights’ motivation for their remaining games.

After the loss Friday against Colorado State, Rutgers had a dominant 9-1 win against Wichita State (5-3). Howard hit her first home run in that game, followed by a solo shot from Williams to open a three-run third inning.

“It just felt a lot better to help my team and get us on the right track,” Williams said.

For updates on the Rutgers softball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

By Justin Lesko

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