Rutgers looks to return to win column in East Lansing
After last years sweep of Michigan State (23-25), the Rutgers softball team is looking to continue its recent past against the Spartans.
The Scarlet Knights (23-27) have two series remaining before entering the Big Ten Tournament.
This upcoming weekend won't be an easy task for the Knights though. Michigan State not only needs wins to solidify itself in the Big Ten Tournament — it's looking to avenge last year's three losses and take care of a hot Rutgers team.
“I think it has a lot of meaning to Michigan State,” said head coach Jay Nelson. “After we swept them last year, they have a lot of inspiration on their side. So I expect them to come out fired up and ready to play. They're better this year than last year, it’s not going to be an easy task. We're gonna have to pitch well and have some key hits, it's standard softball. They're fighting for a spot themselves ... so they have a lot of incentive.”
After a sloppy midweek loss against LIU, the Knights are trying to build back momentum up before it enters the Big Ten Tournament.
In order to take down an eager Spartan team, Rutgers will have to pitch well against a team that’s hitting a solid .294, which ranks seventh overall in the Big Ten conference.
Michigan State also has an ace in Kristina Zalewski that has looked good throughout the 2016 campaign. Boasting a 3.68 ERA over 171 innings pitched and 24 starts, the Knights' batters will need to be awake to be successful against the Spartans.
Nelson said that his team would need to work on simple things in order to be prepared for the weekend series.
“We might do some communication work,” Nelson said. “Because we had players run into each other on a pop fly. It’s the simple things, but it's something we need to work on cause we didn’t do it correctly today.”
Senior third baseman Jordan Whitley said the sloppy play that resulted in an extra innings loss to LIU Brooklyn Wednesday will be a good takeaway knowing that they need to be crisper in order to defeat a solid conference foe.
“I think we can take away from this game that we need do a better executing,” Whitley said after the loss. “I think we're gonna turn the page and go into Michigan State and continue to try and play our game.”
Rutgers is 5-1 in its last six games. Coming into East Lansing with a good approach and a strong mentality will be the main thing for the Knights and may even determine the outcome.
“I think we'll be okay,” said senior Melanie Slowinski in regards to if the loss against LIU will make the Knights lose focus. “Our mentality’s just need come in with a good approach, and that will be the number one thing that will determine it.”
With six games remaining on Rutgers' schedule, working hard and improving each day is still the main focus around a team who has turned its playing up at the perfect time of the season.
“What were looking to do is play our best and continue to learn from our mistakes,” Nelson said.
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