Rutgers travels north to face in-state rival
Tuesday brings the chance for bragging rights, a chance to showoff to local recruits and a chance for Jay Nelson to earn a win over the program he once coached as an assistant.
After sweeping Seton Hall last season in both games, the Rutgers softball team looks to keep the trend going by getting a much-needed rebound victory.
The Scarlet Knights (20-12) have won the last eight games between the two dating back to the 2009 season and lead the all-time series, 45-21.
After shellacking in a three-game sweep at the hands of No. 4 Michigan this past weekend brought the Knights back down to earth, this week's games present the opportunity to wipe the slate clean.
Rutgers' head coach says that starts with getting back on track against the Pirates (17-20).
“We have to turn the page and start another win streak,” Nelson said. “We need to go back to doing what we do. This rivalry gives both teams incentive to do well and it’s always a battle between the two.”
After starting the season red-hot with five straight wins, the Pirates lost all momentum, winning only six of their next 24 games.
But they have responded well to the adversity.
Utility player Yasmin Harrell and infielder Alexis Walkden led the team at the plate batting .369 and .350, respectively. Offense has carried the Pirates to this point in the season, as the pitching staff sports a gaudy 5.03 earned run average.
After committing countless errors and suffering untimely mental lapses over the weekend, it's no secret that Rutgers needs to polish things up.
After scratching just three runs across the plate in three games against the Wolverines — two of which they were shutout — the Knights desperately needed a day to regather themselves at the plate.
Alyssa Landrith thinks having Monday off came at the right time.
“I think we are going to come out red-hot like always,” the senior said. “I think the day of rest is really important for recovery because our schedule gets crazy.”
With seven games in the next week, the pressure only continues to mount.
With Landrith tossing twice this past weekend, junior right-hander Dresden Maddox or sophomore right-hander Shayla Sweeney could receive more time from the circle against Seton Hall.
Junior third baseman Jordan Whitley feels that the exposure to an elite team like Michigan can only make Rutgers grow as the season progresses.
“After playing a team like Michigan, we are definitely ready to play a team like Seton Hall, as well as Villanova,” Whitley said. “We are ready to come after them.”
Nelson echoed that, describing Michigan as a "different animal" when compared to the Pirates.
That experience, coupled with the familiarity of playing against an in-state rival for so many prior years, is why Landrith agrees.
“We have played Seton Hall quite a few times,” Landrith said. “We know what to expect against them. I think this just lights a fire in us to go out and win this week. We always want to come out there and get a 'W' against Seton Hall.”
For updates on the Rutgers softball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.