September 23, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers' slow start to season continues in Georgia

Photo by The Daily Targum |

Sophomore infielder Melanie Slowinski and the Knights approached the game with a mentality of hard work.

The Rutgers softball team dropped 3 of 4 games at the Rafter Memorial Tournament at Kennesaw State this past weekend. The Scarlet Knights lost to Owls (4-2) and Bowling Green (6-1) on Friday and Morehead State (6-5) on Saturday before defeating Bradley (3-7) by a score of 9-5 on Sunday.

Trying to avenge their 0-5 start — which was handed to them by four ranked teams the previous weekend — the Knights had no answer for Kennesaw State, Bowling Green and Morehead State, but woke the bats up against Bradley on Sunday to score nine runs — seven of which came in the third— and managed to hit two home-runs.

“I’m happy we won a game,” said head coach Jay Nelson referring to Sunday's game.

In the first game against KSU, Rutgers sent out senior Dresden Maddox, a Kennesaw, Georgia, native, to the circle.

Photo: The Daily Targum

Senior infielder Stephanie Huang had two hits, one walk and scored a run in the Knights’ first win of the season on Sunday. She is tied for the team-lead in hits with 10.

After retiring the Owls' in order in the first inning, Maddox let up a home run to Rachel Dennis in the second.

After Maddox retired KSU’s first two batters in the third, Missy Perkowski steps up and hit a solo shot to left field, enlarging the lead to 2-0.

In the fourth, Megan Veringa lead off with a walk. Katie Cannington pinch ran for Veringa, stealing second and eventually being knocked in by Taylor Denton to make the lead 3-0.

Lefty Megan Sikes would come on in the top of the fifth to replace KSU’s Logan Viers. Senior catcher Elizabeth Adams would take advantage of the new pitcher and start the fifth off with a double down the left field line. Freshman Arielle Couso would pinch run for Adams and Huang would then single her in three batters later to make the score 3-1.

In the bottom half of the the sixth, Maddox let up her third home run of the game to Courtney Sutter extending KSU’s lead to 4-1.

Rutgers tried to climb back into the game by cutting the Owls' lead to 4-2 with a solo shot from junior infielder Bridget Carr in the seventh, but it wasn’t enough as the Knights lost for their sixth straight game.

Entering the second part of Rutgers' double-header, the Knights sent out freshman pitcher Whitney Jones. 

The first run of the game would come across for Bowling Green unearned via Chelsea Raker’s single to give the Falcons a 1-0 lead.

In the fourth, Bowling Green was quick to put runners on. Marisa Shook led off with a single through the left side and Haley Schrock duplicated that. Braiden Dillow doubled to left center driving in Shook and Shrock making the score 3-0 Falcons.

Bowling Green scored three runs on four hits in the fifth extending its lead to 6-0.

Sierra Maddox would homer to make it 6-1, but that would be it for the Knights as they lost their straight in Kennesaw and seven straight on the season.

Saturday’s contest against Morehead State included three lead changes and a 6-5 victory for Morehead State.

Rutgers couldn’t capitalize on errors by the Eagles, stranding two runners in the top part of the first.

Junior pitcher Aubrie Levine took the circle for the Knights, making her second start and third appearance of the year. Giving up a quick hit to lead-off hitter Kayla McGuffey, MSU capitalized on momentum, scoring two runs on three hits in the bottom half of the first.

Junior catcher Dana Hendry led off the second with a walk for the Knights, followed by freshman outfielder Arielle Couso’s first career single. Junior utility player Carly Todd walked to give the Knights runners at all bases. 

Burcar then singled in sophomore outfielder Jacqueline Kott, who pinch ran for Hendry making the score 2-1. Huang would then add a single of her own to score Couso, trailed by Todd who scored on a fielding error to make the score 3-2 for the Knights.

“She battles with the bat,” Nelson said regarding Couso’s performance. “Even if she gets down with two strikes, she fouls off pitches because she gets one to hit. She gets good at-bats.”

Morehead State evened the game up at three a piece after two hits and one run in the top of the second.

Rutgers would reclaim the lead in the top of the third with Couso’s second hit of the game, driving in Slowinski to take the 4-3 lead.

When it seemed like Rutgers would finally win their first game of the 2016 season, MSU scored two runs in the bottom third, and another run in the bottom fourth to take a 6-4 lead.

Slowinski gave the Knights hope in the seventh, smacking a one-out double to left center. She then advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Hendry’s fly out to center field cutting the deficit to 6-5. 

Couso then flied out to left field, ending the game as Rutgers fell to 0-8.

Although Rutgers lost for the third time at the Kennesaw Tournament, Stephanie Huang extended her hit streak to six games.

In what was the Knights' final game at the Rafter Memorial Tournament on Sunday, Bradley struck first with a run in the top half of the second.

Rutgers responded quickly, tacking on seven runs off six hits — including two home runs by Carr and Slowinski — giving itself a 7-1 lead after three.

The Knights added two runs in the fourth to take a 9-1 lead after four innings.

Bradley showed some life in the fifth, plating two runs on three hits to make the score 9-3.

Junior Shayla Sweeney looked like an ace in the circle until getting rattled again in the sixth, giving a home run up to Rachel Huggins. Whitney Jones would then replace Sweeney, only to give up another home run to Bradley, dwindling the lead down to a score of 9-5.

That would be it for Braves, though, as Rutgers notched a crucial 9-5 victory to enter the win column for the first time in 2016.

“We wanted to play the game we know how to,” Slowinski said. “The approach was to work together and work hard.”

Huang went 5-for-12 knocking in a couple of RBI’s this weekend, extending her hit streak to seven.

“I think the biggest thing is not getting down about the game like a bad call,” Huang said. “ It's more so just worrying about my approach and the pitch that’s in front of me.”

Rutgers returns to Piscataway with a record of 1-8, a step down compared to its 4-5 record through its first nine games last season.

The sloppy play in the early going, including throughout the past weekend in Georgia, may be a result of no practice facility so far this season.

“We haven’t been able to scrimmage because our practice facility has been down,” Nelson said, referring to the Rutgers Indoor Practice & Conditioning Facility, known as the Bubble, which collapsed due to heavy snow during Winter Storm Jonas last month. “So this (tournament) is our practice.”

The Knights travel to Louisiana Friday for two games against No. 7 Louisiana (Lafayette) and two games against Alcorn State. Ul-Lafayette is coming off a series win against Oregon, extending its record to 8-1.

But the Knights aren't worried about their opponents records.

“We really don’t look at the other teams name,” Nelson said. “If you're gonna let a name beat you, it works both ways. If the team is really good, you're gonna go ‘oh no,’ and you're going to get beat. If the team is really bad, you're gonna go, ‘oh they stink,’ and you're not gonna play well and you might get beat too.”

For updates on the Rutgers softball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter. 

Bret Levinson

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