Rutgers seeks to seal spot in Big Ten Tournament against Indiana in final home series of season
This weekend’s series against Indiana will determine if the Rutgers softball team will be playing in this year's postseason competition.
The Scarlet Knights (20-26, 4-10) will host the Hoosiers (24-19, 68) this weekend for their last home series of the year. The Knights can use the three-game home stretch — the final one in the career of five Rutgers' seniors — to potentially solidify their spot in the Big Ten Tournament.
The Knights are coming off an important Big Ten doubleheader sweep of Maryland, where senior Dresden Maddox dominated with a win and a save, earning herself the game ball Wednesday.
Maddox is expected to be back in the circle in the middle contest of the series on Saturday, where Rutgers will celebrate Senior Day.
“The Saturday game is big,” said head coach Jay Nelson. “That’s Senior day, we want to send our seniors out right. I can tell you right now Dresden’s gonna be pitching. That will give her an additional day of rest ... If we go in there and sweep them we're gonna be feeling great.”
But Indiana is not going to be a pushover.
The Hoosiers look to spoil Senior Day and the whole weekend on the Banks.
Indiana ranks eighth in the Big Ten at 6-8, but upon looking at its schedule, one could see not all the losses were the same.
The Hoosiers have played passionately against a lot of tough teams. They lost by 2 runs or less to then-No. 21 Cal, then-No. 16 Texas A&M, then-No. 3 Auburn, and then-No. 17 Kentucky.
Dresden Maddox said the fact Saturday is Senior Day won't be more motivating than any other game, but she may be more emotional.
“I’ve been equally (as) motivated the last four years," she said. "I think it will have more of an emotional effect on me but not necessarily intent to be affective. I’m gonna be the same as always, I always wanna go out and win.”
Rutgers will have to get past Indiana's Rebecca Blitz, who leads the Big Ten with a .380 batting average, in order to see success. But beyond Blitz, the Knights won't face top hitters as Indiana only has one other player in the .300 range.
The Hoosiers strength comes from their pitching staff. Emily Kirk has the lowest ERA on the team with a 3.31. Tara Trainer is second with a 3.42, and Josie Wood, who has pitched the most innings on the staff, holds a 3.49 ERA.
Although five Knights will be done with playing at the Rutgers Softball Complex after this weekend, one noted their careers are not over, and there’s more to be played.
“I’m not going to be playing any different than I have all season,” said senior infielder Melanie Slowinski. “Yeah it's gonna be my last home one, but there’s more after that. It's our senior weekend, so (there is) good momentum going in.”
With a huge weekend around the corner, there is a large emphasis on improving game focus, Nelson said.
“The thing we need to improve (on) is our focus level during the game,” Nelson said. “We need to be engaged in the game at all times, and sometimes, I don’t feel that we are all there.”
For Rutgers, this weekend series can determine its postseason fate, and Maddox likes her team’s chances with the positive momentum the Knights have entering the weekend.
"I think we have good momentum going into the weekend now,” Maddox said. “For us, it means we wanna go out and play our best game.”
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