Rutgers drops series with Ohio State
The Rutgers softball team needed to re-establish itself in Big Ten Conference play.
After a sweep last weekend by then-No. 4 Michigan, the Scarlet Knights rebounded in their midweek games against Seton Hall and Villanova.
But Rutgers fell just short to Ohio State in the rubber match on Saturday to drop the series, 2-1.
“These are teams we haven’t played before,” said head coach Jay Nelson. "We are figuring out how to play them, so we can then get into the tournament and be competitive in the tournament and win a couple of games.”
Due to inclement weather in the forecast for Sunday, the third game of the series was rescheduled to Saturday for a doubleheader.
While sometimes an unexpected change like this may affect a team, the Knights were used to it, having played doubleheaders on Saturday’s the last two seasons in the Big East and AAC.
The Buckeyes (24-19, 8-9) took the rubber game of the series, 8-4.
Rutgers (24-14, 8-6) got out to the early lead thanks to senior centerfielder Jackie Bates launching a two-run home run in the top of the first.
Bates had another hot series, belting three home runs to give her 16 on the year. The mark puts her in sole possession of first place for the single season home run record. Bates also tied the school record for career home runs with 34.
“It’s pretty special,” Bates said on breaking the record. “I’m excited to have it. It’s something I’ve been working for all season, but you can’t let it get to your head too much and keep playing the games like you know how, and treat every at bat like a normal at bat and wait for your pitches.”
However, the Buckeyes were able to overcome the early attack and answer with three of their own in the bottom half of the first, and they didn’t look back from there securing the win.
Bates added her second home run of the game in the bottom of the seventh.
Sophomore right-hander Shayla Sweeney didn’t have her best stuff on the day, putting the team in a hole early. While junior right-hander Dresden Maddox was able to stop the bleeding, it was too late.
The team struggled at the plate with runners on base.
But Rutgers would not go quietly in the series. The Knights came back in Game Two, earning a 3-2 victory to even the series.
Maddox was on the mound and had a gritty outing for the Knights, surrendering two runs in six and one-third innings. Senior pitcher Alyssa Landrith came in to close, getting the last two outs of the game for the win.
“I went out there and tried to stay within myself and pitched to my strength and the batters weaknesses, so that I can give the team the best shot I could to get that win,” Maddox said.
The Knights regained the lead in the top of the sixth after a fielding mishap on Ohio State’s part, allowing junior catcher Elizabeth Adams to score.
Bates added her first of the three home runs this weekend in the win.
In the first game of the series, Rutgers suffered a 4-3 heartbreaker to the Buckeyes after a three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth inning. The rally came in the form of a misplayed line drive and two walks on close pitches as all three Buckeyes were driven in to take the lead late in the game.
Landrith went six innings, surrendering four runs on six hits while striking out four batters.
In order to further the team’s success, the team really needs to have pitchers establish themselves as No. 2, and Maddox might have done that Saturday and from her previous outings.
“Dresden pitched great,” Nelson said. “She kept us inland battled by only giving up the two runs. She did a tremendous job. I think she’s gaining confidence, and it’s a very good thing. She started the year in a slump, but the more she’s pitched, the better she has got.”
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