Rutgers bounces back to split Pride series
Head coach Jay Nelson looked up at the scoreboard and knew this was not Rutgers softball.
After Game 1 of yesterday’s home-opening doubleheader at the Rutgers Softball Complex, the scoreboard read 13-1 — a five-inning mercy rule win in favor of Hofstra.
But what got on Nelson’s nerves the most was one statistic — five errors.
“I just told them, ‘that’s not us. We’re better than that,’” Nelson said. “We came out of that 7-of-9 winning streak with .973 fielding [percentage], and then we throw five errors on the board. That’s not us, we just need to come out and focus. We were a little sloppy, and I think it starts with our mental approach.”
By the product that Rutgers put on the field in the second game of the day, it was obvious that the words of the eighth-year head coach had clicked in the minds of his players.
Fueled by a dominant one-run, five-hit performance on the mound by junior lefty Alyssa Landrith, the Scarlet Knights (13-10, 1-2) crafted a fundamentally sound 3-0 win over Hofstra (14-7) on an unseasonably cold day in Piscataway.
Landrith, who despite hitting two batters and striking out only three, managed to hold the Pride to one run. She pitched her ninth complete game of the year to improve her record to 7-4 on the season.
After witnessing Hofstra stack up 13 runs on 11 hits and capitalize on five Rutgers errors in the first game, Landrith knew Rutgers had to step up its game to prevent a sweep.
“I think it was really important to get into a positive mindset after that first game,” Landrith said. “It was a tough loss, so it was really important that we didn’t think about it in the second game.”
Sophomore catcher Elizabeth Adams echoed the collective mentality entering the second game.
“Bouncing back from the first game, we just knew we had to go out and pitch our own game,” Adams said. “It’s just a matter of sticking to our game plan.”
Adams and Landrith thrived off of mixing speeds and locating pitches to induce 18 groundball and fly-ball outs.
The defense, after committing five errors earlier in the day, turned in a spotless effort in game two with no errors.
The Knights’ bats, which were limited to one run and four hits by Hofstra ace Morgan Lashley, returned to form in the second half of the doubleheader.
The lineup turned six hits into three runs, as a result of timely hitting in key spots.
Junior outfielder Chandler Howard created some breathing room in the bottom of the third inning, taking an 0-2 pitch in the leadoff at-bat to left center and over the fence for a solo home run — her fourth homerun of the season.
“I approached it like everything else,” Howard said. “I just knew I was waiting for my pitch and I had two strikes, so I knew I had to widen my zone and she put it in a place I really like.”
With a hit in the first game and the solo shot in the second, Howard extended her hitting streak to 10 games.
As Rutgers approaches its three-game home series with AAC foe South Florida this weekend, Howard stressed the importance of preventing a sweep and going into the weekend on a positive note.
“I think it’s really important. We just need to stay consistent,” Howard said. “We know we can beat the tough teams and we keep showing it, so we need to just bring it with us this weekend.”
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