Rutgers looks to end early season slump in Louisiana
The Rutgers softball team takes its lackluster 1-8 record with it to the Rajin’ Cajuns Invitational in Lafayette, Louisiana, this weekend for a four-game slate.
The Scarlet Knights will play two games against No. 6 Louisiana (Lafayette) (8-1) and another two against Alcorn State (3-6).
The two contests against the Rajin' Cajuns will be the Knights' fifth and sixth games against a ranked opponent in only 10 games.
The Knights let up 21 runs in last weekend’s Raffer Memorial Tournament at Kennesaw State, raising their overall ERA to 4.59.
That doesn’t seem to be a problem for Rutgers senior starter Dresden Maddox, citing the strength of the opposition as the reason for the Knights' defensive struggles.
“I don’t feel like I’ve struggled actually,” Maddox said. “I think I have been pitching against good opponents.”
Another good opponent awaits Rutgers as Ul-Lafayette boasts a team batting average of .372.
Although the Knights have faced No. 5 Alabama, No. 7 UCF and No. 19 James Madison, the Cajuns have power not many teams in the country have.
“Alabama was like that too (in terms of power hitting),” said head coach Jay Nelson. “But they're not quite the power team Louisiana is, so we're gonna have to be ready for that.”
The Knights are 6-for-8 in stolen base attempts this year, something that seems to stick out from a team that only has three batters over the .250 mark.
Going against a USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top 50 “Watch List” nominees in ULL seniors catcher Lexie Elkins and outfielder Shellie Landry, Rutgers will need to be a bit more careful stealing bases.
“We're stealing when we need to,” Nelson said. “In other words, we don’t look to run all the time. A couple of stolen bases have been with two outs and we need to get a runner in scoring position.”
ULL brings to the table a 2.07 earned run average, with its ace Alex Stewart boasting a 5-0 record to go along with a 1.50 ERA and 25 strikeouts over 28 innings.
The Knights as a squad are at the lower spectrum of the average standpoint with a .222 batting average.
Something the Knights struggled with this season so far is striking out, doing so a total of 45 times.
“As you can see, we're striking out a lot or getting behind a lot of change ups,” Nelson said. “Like we're out on our front foot and we're not recognizing the pitch. So pitch recognition is something we're going to work on this week.”
With a team ERA of 4.59, Nelson is still unsure of who he is throwing out in the circle in game one against ULL at 5 p.m. on Friday, but said one of his pitchers has had a noticeably impressive performance.
“I think (junior right handed pitcher) Shayla (Sweeney) had the best stuff this past weekend,” Nelson said. "And basically it was her location. She went up against a very tough hitting team and actually they're all pull hitters, she jammed 'em until the fifth inning when they were looking for it.”
Despite Rutgers' early season struggles, the moral among the team is high and sophomore infielder Rebecca Hall has a lot to do with it.
“We're just focusing on perfecting the little things and coming together as a team,” Hall said. “We're gonna go out there and try our best against ULL. We're feeling pretty confident, we just need to focus on the little things and not overthink the game.”
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