July 16, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers reconnects with LIU Brooklyn

Photo by samantha casimir |

Senior third baseman Jordan Whitley is second on the Knights in batting average, currently hitting at a .322 clip at the dish.

The Rutgers softball team is hoping to extend its winning streak to a total of six games on Wednesday as the Scarlet Knights hit the road for a rematch against LIU Brooklyn (22-24).

Though there will be one thing that's different from the first time the Scarlet Knights (23-26) matched up against the Blackbirds — there will be no sunny setting with palm trees surrounding the stadium.

Their first meeting was played in Boca Raton, Florida, at the Florida Atlantic Tournament, where Rutgers took the game by a score of 2-1.

Since then, LIU has earned a 16-9 record, dominating through conference play with a 10-2 record.

Photo: samantha casimir

Junior pitcher Shayla Sweeney said the Knights playing against top teams at the beginning of the season has helped them at the tail end of the year. Sweeney leads Rutgers in ERA at 4.43 and is second in wins.

But the Knights are playing the best ball all season.

Although Rutgers is just two games over the .500 mark at 16-14 since playing LIU, after sweeping two conference opponents in Maryland and Indiana in the past week, the Knights are feeling unstoppable.

But even though Rutgers clinched a spot in the Big Ten Tournament and Wednesday’s game is the last non-conference opponent all year before heading to Michigan to face the Spartans and Wolvernies, head coach Jay Nelson still preaches to his team the importance of looking at one game at a time.

“One game at a time,” Nelson said. “That’s the way we take it. One game at a time, we don’t look at what we did in the past, we look towards the future of the next game. We look to focus on what we're supposed to do to execute. That’s what we’ve preached all year long. I said let's carry this over to LIU and to Michigan State, and they go ‘let's sweep, sweep, sweep,' I said 'nope, we never think sweep we think one game.'”

The main workhorse for the Blackbirds is Erynn Sobieski, who has cumulated 173.1 innings pitched and flaunts an ERA of 3.51.

Sobieski also recorded a total of 111 strikeouts and is probably going to get the revenge nod in the circle against the Knights.

Sobieski pitched seven innings in the first game when these two teams met allowing 2 runs over seven innings pitched.

LIU also boasts five hitters batting over the .300 mark with Victoria Zamora leading the team with an average of .375.

But that shouldn’t bother the new and improved Rutgers pitching staff that upgraded mightily over the past five games allowing an average of 2.2 runs per game.

Plus facing many ranked opponents earlier in the season and ranked conference opponents throughout the season is part of the recent success, junior right-hander pitcher Shayla Sweeney said.

“Our conference is tough to begin with,” Sweeney said. “I think the first couple weeks playing top-10 teams helped us where we are today. It all prepares us for the wins.”

With the Knights record showing them at three games under the .500 mark, they have a chance to build a winning record with seven games remaining.

But reaching the .500 mark or over doesn’t seem to be the goal right now.

“I think that we all knew we were on the brink of something,” said senior third baseman Jordan Whitley. “I felt like we were pulling things together each series, and things were getting better and we were improving. We were just taking it one pitch at a time, and turns out the last few series it went our way. So we're just gonna try and keep that momentum moving into the next couple series.” 

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

Bret Levinson

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