Rutgers takes first step with season opening tournament
Spring doesn't officially begin for another 35 days, but the college softball season is right around the corner.
The Rutgers softball team embarks on its 2015 campaign with a five-game weekend consisting of back-to-back days of double headers and one game on Sunday.
“I'm excited to finally be playing,” said head coach Jay Nelson. “I'm really not looking too far ahead. One game at a time. If an opponent is 0-10 or 10-0 it makes no difference how we play. We need to focus on one pitch at a time until the game is over.”
After this weekend comes to a close, the Scarlet Knights anxiously await the beginning of Big Ten play.
“I hope that we make an impact and we don’t just layover,” said senior centerfielder Jackie Bates. “I want other teams to know we worked really hard this offseason and that we are working to beat some pretty good teams. It’s going to be awesome playing against these teams and seeing their facilities.”
After one season in the AAC where it went 28-19 overall, Rutgers hopes that the adjustment into a better conference does not take long.
"I think we will make a quick adjustment,” said junior pitcher Dresden Maddox. “The only thing that is different is [that] we won’t play double headers anymore. It will help rest the team [to] come back more powerful. They’re going to be stronger and faster but I think we have a really good shot at competing with all of them.”
Stepping on the field this weekend will be the first time in the outside since Oct. 12 for the Knights, as they have been practicing indoors at the indoor practice bubble outside of High Point Solutions Stadium and at the RAC.
Left-hander Alyssa Landrith appeared in 31 games, going 17-8 with a 2.45 ERA in 177 innings pitched. She has accumulated 52 wins in her first three seasons and returns for her senior campaign with more to prove.
“Every season you have to reinvent yourself as a pitcher because you don’t want to be predictable,” Landrith said. “Every team has a book on you and know what you throw, so you have to mix it up and play your strengths but also show them something different.”
Sophomore Shayla Sweeney and Maddox will look to take the pressure of Landrith, as well as innings off her arm this season with an increased role on the pitching staff.
Sweeney went 9-10 last season in 24 appearances, while Maddox went 2-1 in 16 appearances.
Now in her second year, Sweeney hopes to avoid a sophomore slump and looks to continue to grow in an effort to become an integral part of the rotation.
“I’m looking to improve on my losses,” Sweeney said. “We faced some tough competition. It was my first year as a freshman in college, so it was difficult to adjust to everything. I just want to increase wins and decrease losses to help the team.”
In a season where Rutgers sets to face new and improved competition, Bates thinks it’s imperative for the team to have short-term memory at the plate. After hitting an impressive .390 at the plate last year, she was able to lead an explosive lineup.
“You have to take it one pitch at a time,” Bates said. “If you had a bad game or a good game, you have to forget about it and focus [on] what’s on hand with each pitcher. Each pitcher will throw you different and they’re going to recruit on you so they’ll know your weaknesses and what not. You have to keep that stuff out of mind and keep working on your hitting."
Nelson will look to Bates, Landrith and senior left fielder Chandler Howard this season to step up and lead for the Knights.
“I look to the upper class athletes to lead the team,” Nelson said. “All three of them have a great deal of experience and are as valuable leading off the field as on the field.”
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