Rutgers' early season struggles persists after losing 3 of 4 in Louisiana
The Rutgers softball team lost three of four games at the Ragin’ Cajuns Invitational this past weekend.
After a 12-0 mercy rule loss to No. 6 Louisiana (Lafayette) in which they had zero hits, the Scarlet Knights (2-11) dropped a 2-1 contest against Alcorn State.
An emphatic 10-0 shutout win against Alcorn State on Saturday would be the only win of the weekend for Rutgers. It was followed by another mercy rule loss to the Ragin' Cajuns, this time by a score of 8-0.
Senior pitcher Dresden Maddox was the starter in game one, only lasting one out into the game, letting up five earned runs before getting pulled. It was the right-hander's second straight start letting up at least two home runs in the first inning.
The umpire was also squeezing the pitcher, or tightening the strike zone, adding another reason head coach Jay Nelson to pull Maddox.
“I just feel it wasn’t a good match up with the umpire and Dresden,” Nelson said. “Dresden needed a little bit more of a plate than she was given.”
USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top 50 “Watch List” nominee Lexie Elkins hit a two-run shot followed by a solo shot from Kelsey Vincent for the Cajuns.
Freshman Whitney Jones replaced Maddox, pitching two innings and letting up four earned runs herself.
In the second game on Friday against Alcorn State, Rutgers once again found themselves in an early 1-0 hole.
In the fourth inning, Courtney Holt singled down the third baseline getting driven in by Shamberlynn Alop raising the Lady Braves' lead to 2-0.
Sophomore catcher Sierra Maddox lead off the fifth with a single down the left field line and sophomore Meaghan Wells reached on a fielder’s choice to second base.
Wells then scored on a stolen base going home, but the inning would end early due to freshman outfielder Arianna Burcar getting caught stealing to second.
Sierra Maddox earned a single in the seventh as well, totaling her hits to two on the game but that would be all as the Knights dropped two on the day.
The third game of the weekend was one of the lone positives for Rutgers.
The Knights defeated Alcorn State in a 10-0 mercy rule decision.
Jones was stellar in the circle, pitching five innings while letting up no runs and striking out four.
“It feels great,” Jones said. “It’s great to have such a supporting team, and it feels great that we can all be in this together and share the victory”.
Rutgers got things rolling in the fourth with senior second baseman Stephanie Huang walking and stealing a base in her first at-bat.
Senior infielder Jordan Whitley escaped the slump she was locked down by and tripled to right center, driving in Huang.
Sophomore first-baseman Rebecca Hall singled to left center and then drove in Whitley to raise the lead to 2-0.
“I dropped her and got the result I wanted,” Nelson said, referring to Whitley getting a hit. “She’s been swinging away, but she’s also a slap hitter and she went back to slapping and she’s hitting the ball much better.”
Sierra Maddox also earned a single and stole second base, only to be followed by junior Carly Todd, who also got a base hit, bringing in Hall. Maddox then scored on a pass ball.
Senior catcher Elizabeth Adams capped off the inning with a left driving single in Todd, which gave Rutgers a 5-0 lead after three.
After Jones shut down Alcorn State in the third, the Knights would tack on another five runs in the fourth via a Huang single, a Hall double, a Slowinki walk, and consecutive singles from Todd single and Adams.
Jones shut down the Lady Braves for another two innings to complete the first win of her career.
“It was great to get a victory,” Jones said. “It was a great team effort, the defense did really well and we hit really well, so it all came together.”
Coach Nelson said he was impressed with the way his freshman pitched.
“Outstanding,” he said of Jones' performance. “Three hits, no walks and her first collegiate win. I felt she did a great job.”
Rutgers went 9-for-17 with runners on, 8-for-14 with runners in scoring position, and 3-for-8 with two outs.
The Knights finished on the short side of a blowout against ULL in the final game of the weekend tournament.
Junior Shayla Sweeney replaced junior Aubrie Levine, who started in the circle for the Knights, with two outs in the third.
Rutgers used four pitchers total in a game that ended early due to the eight-run mercy rule.
While the results weren't what the Knights were hoping for when they headed down to Louisiana, the most important thing was learning what they'll be able to work on as the season progresses.
“I think we just need to focus on the little things right now,” Whitley said. “Getting good pitches and not swinging at bad pitches. We're not really focused on the wins and losses right now, we're focused on improving and getting better everyday.”
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