Pitching powers Rutgers past Purdue for series win
With the series on the line and the game deep into extra innings, emotions were running high.
It was a classic pitchers' duel throughout the entire game. Heading into the top of the 10th inning, the score was evened, 1-1.
Then, the Rutgers softball team finally got the spark it was hoping for.
Junior shortstop Melanie Slowinski, who had previously struggled in the game and most of the weekend, smashed her fourth home run of the season. It proved to be the deciding factor in the game, as the Scarlet Knights came away with a 2-1 triumph.
“I didn’t even know it was a homerun until I rounded second, but I knew once I did it, we needed to get three more outs,” Slowinski said. “And with Alyssa on the mound, I had full confidence we would win the game.”
The real star of the game — and arguably the weekend — was Alyssa Landrith. The senior left-hander went the distance for the Knights, throwing 137 pitches in the process and surrendering just three hits.
She came back out after an hour-long rain delay in the fifth with the full intention of finishing the game, refusing to be taken out by head coach Jay Nelson.
“She is healthy now,” Nelson said. “She was throwing free and easy. Her motion was good and she wasn’t walking batters. She was making them go after her pitches. That, with her added leadership, has been huge.”
In the second game of the series, Rutgers failed to get any pitcher other than Landrith back on track, namely junior Dresden Maddox and Shayla Sweeney. Rutgers fell to the Boilermakers, 11-8.
The Knights got 17 hits in the game, but failed to have any serious impact until a four-run rally in the top of the seventh, which ultimately fell short.
Senior outfielder Jackie Bates went 3-for-5 at the plate with two doubles and four runs batted in. Junior infielder Stephanie Huang continued to thrive in the leadoff position, going 3-for-5 at the plate.
When a team racks up the hits at the plate, they expect to score a lot of runs and get the win. This wasn’t the case, mostly due to errors and mental lapses throughout the contest.
Our pitching and our defense was off,” Nelson said. “We have to play a cleaner game if we want to win every game. We had a few errors and some sloppy plays. We have to tighten up with our focus.”
Maddox went three and one-third innings, surrendering six runs on nine hits.
Sweeney tried to stop the bleeding in her relief appearance, but was unable to tie the tourniquet, giving up five runs (one earned), along with four hits and three walks in one and two-thirds innings of work.
Sophomore first baseman Aubrie Levine, who also pitches, came in for the last inning. The right-hander limited the damage with one hit in shutout frame.
The trio of Maddox, Sweeney and Levin surrendered 14 hits.
The first game was a much different story for Rutgers, as the Knights notched a 5-0 win.
Rutgers scored five runs on seven hits, two of which came from the eight-hitter and junior catcher Elizabeth Adams, who doubled and homered for the Knights. Senior outfielder Chandler Howard also slapped her first home run of the season.
The run support was more than enough for Landrith. The southpaw recorded her seventh win of the year to move six wins shy of first place for most in program history.
She went the distance, surrendering five hits and striking out three for her 23rd-career shutout, leaving her one short of second all-time and six of first place.
On the weekend, she compiled 17 innings with the lone run yielded coming unearned.
“I think that I had really good communication with my catcher,” Landrith said. “We had a plan going into the game and it worked out. I just focused on hitting my spots and trusting my pitches as well as trusting my defense behind me.”
For updates on the Rutgers softball team, follow @TargumSports for updates.