Rutgers gets swept at home by No. 21 Minnesota
For the second straight weekend, the Rutgers softball team was overpowered and swept on their own field by a more dominate Big Ten opponent, suffering 26 runs and scoring just two in a three-game set with No. 21 Minnesota.
“I think we just got taken out of our game,” said head coach Jay Nelson following Sunday's 11-1 loss to the Golden Gophers.
In game one, the Scarlet Knights (18-26) knew there was no running from 2015 All-Big Ten pitcher Sara Groenewegen.
Groenewegen lived up to the hype, striking out 11 over 5 2-3 innings of work without giving up any runs.
The Gophers started early by jumping on senior pitcher Dresden Maddox, putting up a five spot in the first inning.
Maddox found her groove from then on and only allowed two more runs, but Rutgers couldn’t score more than the one run that sophomore first baseman Rebecca Hall drove in during the sixth inning, as it dropped the first contest by a score of 7-1.
“They're a really aggressive team,” Maddox said of Minnesota. “They're a really good team, a very good team, highly nationally ranked. They have good batters all the way down the lineup. I really didn’t know what to do because they were swinging at my first pitches.”
Saturday's game wasn't much better as Rutgers was shutout by the Gophers in an 8-0 loss.
Junior pitcher Shayla Sweeney started in the circle for the Knights, allowing 5 runs and eight hits over 3 2-3 innings.
Fellow junior pitcher Aubrie Levine finished the game by throwing 2 1-3 innings, allowing 3 runs on three hits.
Sophomore catcher Sierra Maddox led the team with two hits in the contest while sophomore Meaghan Wells and senior catcher Elizabeth Adams both contributed one hit each.
The Knights had a chance in the bottom of the fourth with loaded bases when senior infielder Melanie Slowinski was walked, and sophomore Sierra Maddox and Adams followed up with a pair of singles, but the rally would fall short.
In the last of the three-game series, Rutgers was mercy ruled in five innings by a score of 11-1.
The Gophers drew blood first in the second inning after being retired easily in the first inning. They then put a six spot up in the second inning to take an early 6-0 lead.
The Golden Gophers would tack on another 2 runs in the fourth and then another 3 runs in the fifth, handing the Knights their sixth straight loss.
Rutgers was unable to get a hit on Groenewegen in her three innings and senior pitcher Nikki Anderson in her first inning of work. They appeared to be headed towards getting no-hit until junior Carly Todd broke the no-hitter with a double in the bottom of the fifth.
She eventually scored off a double from Wells.
Rutgers got outscored 26-2 this weekend and a total of 64-12 over the past two weekends.
Although the Knights faced one of the best pitchers in the nation this past weekend, Nelson thinks his team was not playing their best.
“We were doing things out of context,” Nelson said. “I mean you have one of the best pitchers in the nation, and we're swinging at bad pitches. We were getting down in the count, and then it's real hard. We got taken out of it on offense, and we just couldn’t find a way to get hitters out.”
Something Rutgers struggled with is both finding rhythm to score runs and producing from its pitchers.
"Some days you just face great teams, and there’s nothing you can do about it," Todd said.
Fortunately for the Knights, this week, they face a lighter schedule compared to the past two weeks.
With an away doubleheader Wednesday against Maryland, Rutgers will look to regain momentum and string together some much-needed wins.
Unfortunately, there will not be any practice leading up to the Maryland midweek series, but Nelson hopes that these past two weeks facing top competition will have prepared his team already for the Terps.
“We're gonna keep after it,” Nelson said. “I’m hoping that maybe facing these pitchers have gotten us ready for a pitching staff that has ERA’s in the threes and fours.”
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