Rutgers senior trio swings for success in swan song
This weekend presents the opportunity to honor three of the greatest careers in the history of the Rutgers softball program. Centerfielder Jackie Bates, left-hander Alyssa Landrith and left fielder Chandler Howard will be honored Friday during Senior Day.
“The thing about Senior Day is (that) I’m happy for them as they get ready for an important stage in their life, and yet, I’m sad to see them go,” said head coach Jay Nelson. “It’s a personal friendship that I hope lasts forever.”
In terms of statistics, Landrith leaves the program as the greatest pitcher to ever step into the circle for the Scarlet Knights. The ace southpaw sits atop the record books as the all-time leader wins (66) and strikeouts (620).
“I think I’ll be really sad,” Landrith said. “I’ve had great memories on that field the last four years with my teammates. It will be an emotional day.”
Bates leaves the program as the greatest power hitter at the plate with the most home runs in a single season and the most home runs all time for the Knights (28-17, 10-10).
Howard has cumulated a .325 batting average for her career, including a current mark of .331 this season to follow up her staggering .389 from last year, which ranks fifth-best in program history.
The trio has formed an unbreakable bond being together for the four years and the three different conferences, but it helped motivate the three Knights each time they stepped on the field.
“We started this altogether,” Landrith said. “We lived together all four years. We definitely fed off each other and continually held each other to a high standard."
They won’t be easily forgotten for their impact on the underclassman when they leave.
“I think that we are all pretty sad,” said junior right-hander Dresden Maddox. "We are happy for them on the amazing careers they’ve had. Not only are they great players, but they are great friends."
This weekend is also the last regular season series for Rutgers in its inaugural Big Ten season as it gets set to take on a slumping Wisconsin team (19-30, 3-16) that has dropped seven straight and is second-to-last in the Big Ten standings in 13th place.
“We want to come out and play the best that we can especially since it's before the conference tournament,” Bates said. “We want to end on a good note.”
The Badgers don’t stand out offensively, but when they are on the bases, they can be lethal — Wisconsin leads the Big Ten in stolen bases with 114.
However, the Badgers remain in the bottom four of almost every other offensive statistic, including home runs, hits, runs batted in (RBI), total bases, runs scored and slugging percentage.
Wisconsin has a total of seven home runs on the season. The lack of power from the Badgers' lineup may play in the favor of the Knights.
“If the winds are blowing the way they were (Tuesday against LIU-Brooklyn), things will be in our favor with the long ball,” Nelson said. “We just have to make adjustments along the way.”
Badgers ace Steward Taylor-Paige, who is 8-16 with a 5.04 earned run average on the season, has surrendered 22 home runs alone, while the team has given up 42 total.
Wisconsin jots out a lineup of seven left-handed hitters, with some of those as slap hitters. A slap hitter gets a running start on a pitch in order to gather up power and speed.
Nelson mentioned the Knights must be keen on the slap hitters in their preparation and work on their short game to keep them off the bases.
The lefty-on-lefty battle favors Landrith, who figures to get two starts in the first and third games.
The Badgers have a solid top of the order led by sophomore shortstop Chloe Miller, who is batting .362 with 42 RBI on the season. Senior outfielder Marissa Mersch is right behind her, batting .359 with 33 RBI.
With it being the final home series and Senior Day on the horizon, Rutgers expects the emotion and energy from its supporters to be evident on Friday and throughout the weekend.
“Home field advantage for us is a lot better when we have our fans come out for us, and we are a lot more confident at home,” said sophomore right-hander Shayla Sweeney. “It’s a big series — we have to take it a game at a time to get the wins.”
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