Steady improvement continues for Rutgers over Spring Break
It's not always how you start that matters.
After beginning the season 0-8, the Rutgers softball team has gone 14-8 in the last 22 games.
The Scarlet Knights are led by a pitching staff that has improved mightily, improving their team ERA to 3.70, with the biggest improvement coming from starter Dresden Maddox.
The senior right hander pitched a total of 29 innings over the 12 games during Spring Break, only allowing 6 earned runs and striking out 20.
“She has put in some really good games,” said head coach Jay Nelson. “She came out and shut out Chattanooga, who is a decent team. She’s come in after some losses and stabilized the team pitching great games. Our whole pitching staff has improved since the beginning of the year, so I’m really pleased with what they’ve been doing.”
The Knights (14-16) went 3-2 over the five games at the Spring Break Tournament at USF, defeating UMass-Lowell (4-19), Chattanooga (17-15) and Quinnipiac (8-12), while losing to Lehigh (15-6) and Maine (8-9).
After taking 3 of 5 games at the Florida Atlantic Tournament, the Knights continued their rhythm and swept Florida International (17-12) for two games, mercy ruling them in the second contest, 10-1.
In the first game on Friday at the Spring Break Tournament at USF, Rutgers defeated UMass-Lowell by a score of 2-1.
Whitney Jones started in the circle for the Knights in game one. She allowed 1 run on six hits over 1 1/3 inning of work. Dresden Maddox would replace Jones and cap the game off allowing no runs on one hit, striking out seven and capturing her fourth win of the season.
Entering conference play with a little bit of confidence was key for Maddox.
“We just wanted to have a good week to carry into conference play,” she said. “I think we all buckled down and worked as hard as we could to stay focused. The weather has been great so we have been enjoying that, and it’s been easy to play in. We wanted to make sure we had good momentum going into conference play next week.”
In the second game on Friday, Rutgers faced defending Patriot League Champions Lehigh.
The Knights suffered their first loss of the weekend, 10-5, needing to use a total of four pitchers to finish the game. Junior righty Shayla Sweeney was on a hot streak lowering her impressive ERA down to 2.85 up until facing the Mountain Hawks.
Sweeney pitched only two innings, allowing 3 runs on six hits. Jones, Maddox and Aubrie Levine would all contribute in the loss allowing a total of 7 runs combined.
Senior Stephanie Huang led the stat sheet in Friday’s second game, going 3-for-3 and doubling in two RBI’s in the second inning giving the Knights a 3-2 lead.
“I think we're hitting better,” Huang said. “Getting better timely hits, and making plays we need to make.”
After Lehigh tied the game in the third, it was downhill for Rutgers from then on, allowing a six spot in the fourth and letting up a run in the fifth.
After the Knights got shut out earlier in the day Saturday, they returned the favor to Chattanooga, defeating the Mocs in mercy fashion 8-0 after five.
Maddox posted her fourth career shutout at Rutgers, only allowing three hits over her five innings of work. Maddox only needed 41 pitches to get through the Mocs lineup that boasts five batters who post a .300 or better batting average.
“I just wanted to focus on hitting my spots,” Maddox said. “Throwing to my strengths and the batters weaknesses, and working as hard as I could so I could get outs for my teammates.”
Huang continued her success with the bat, plating three RBI’s with two hits in the win, raising her total average to .389 and placing her 12th overall in batting average in the Big Ten conference.
“I think the biggest thing is not swinging at bad pitches and just not getting ahead of myself,” Huang said.
The Knights drew blood first in the game off of Sierra Maddox’s RBI to drive home Rebecca Hall to give Rutgers a 1-0 lead.
Rutgers would break the game open in the third by scoring 6 runs off of five hits.
Huang would single up the middle in the fifth, plating the last run of the game to give the Knights an 8-0 win and a .500 record at the Spring Break Tournament at USF with one more game to play.
A total of four Scarlet Knights posted two hits in the win as Rutgers raises their team average to .257.
In the last game of the weekend, Rutgers beat Quinnipiac by a score of 9-3.
Jones started in the circle for the Knights allowing 2 runs over four innings of work. Maddox replaced her in the fifth to close the game out allowing one run herself, striking out two.
Anico continued to stay hot, driving in the first runner of the game to give Rutgers a 1-0 lead. The Knights would tack on another two in the third to take a 3-0 lead.
The Bobcats answered in the top half of the fourth hitting a two-run homerun to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Rutgers would steam roll on to score four more runs in the fourth and two more runs in the fifth to win the game 9-3, and improve their record to only two games under .500 at 14-16.
The Scarlet Knights host Hofstra, Tuesday, at the Rutgers Softball Complex playing in their last game before conference play. Nelson is excited for the challenge, stating that’s what his team needs to get ready for Penn State next weekend.
“Hofstra is a good team,” Nelson said. “So it’s a kind of team we want to face. They always pitch well and hit the ball. Its gonna be a challenge and that’s the kind of thing we need getting ready for conference play."
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