Rutgers heads to Florida for FAU Parent's Weekend Tournament
The Rutgers softball team has slowly been improving this season.
After going winless in the first weekend, the team won one game the next weekend and two this past weekend. And now the Scarlet Knights (3-11) are looking to increase their win total even more.
Rutgers head to Florida to compete in the Florida Atlantic Parents’ Weekend Tournament today until Sunday. It is the start of a weeklong stretch of games in Florida for the Knights, as they play two mid-week games before competing in the USF Clearwater Spring Break Classic next weekend.
“We have twelve games this week, so winning more than half would be a good goal,” said senior pitcher Shayla Sweeney. “We’re not off to our best start right now, but we’re the best that we are right now.”
Among the teams Rutgers will compete against this weekend are Fordham and Florida International. The Knights lost to FIU two weeks ago, and were beaten by Fordham twice last week, both by mercy rule.
Rutgers will round out its weekend schedule with Saturday games against Ball State and Illinois State and a Sunday game against Brown.
Other than Fordham and FIU, the Knights’ opponents this weekend all have losing records. Ball Sate (7-14) is on a bit of a hot streak, winning five of its last eight, including four of five at South Florida’s Under Armour Invitational. Illinois State (7-9) lost four of five at the LSU Invitational, including defeats at the hands of nationally ranked LSU and Minnesota. And Brown (0-5) opened up the season losing all of its games at the Madeira Beach Tournament.
Rutgers is definitely capable of winning multiple games this weekend, but there is still one nagging issue that is preventing it from doing better this season.
The Knights have lacked consistent pitching behind Sweeney. Head coach Jay Nelson said that confidence is the key to his other pitchers doing well.
“When someone throws a good game, they’ll gain confidence and get better,” he said. “Whitney (Jones) and Cambria (Keefer) are both young and have the ability to pitch well.”
But outside of pitching, Rutgers is actually doing quite well. They have gotten contributions on offense from many players, freshmen to seniors.
“Our (production) has grown a lot,” said freshman Nicole Bowman. “Our freshman class is strong and we’ve trained at a high level before coming in, which helps us a lot. Everyone on the team is coming together and working off each other.”
Rutgers is led by the three-headed monster of freshmen Taryn Atlee and Bowman, along with junior Rebecca Hall. Combined, they have 53 hits, 37 RBIs, and eight of the team’s nine home runs.
As a freshman, Bowman said that she and her fellow freshmen have gotten valuable tips from upperclassmen.
“Becca Hall and Carly Todd are great leaders and mentor us in all aspects of the game,” she said.
In addition, the Knights’ defense has gotten a lot better over time. They committed eight errors two weeks ago, but sliced that total in half last weekend.
One of the main concerns for college softball teams is that often times they will play many games in a few days, which affects them in a negative way. And Rutgers, who only has one consistent pitcher and can’t start her every game, is the type of team that will suffer when their best players aren’t in the game. But Nelson pointed out that it’s good for the team’s growth.
“It gives you the opportunity to get ready for conference play,” he said. “We need to play games, so I’m hoping our pitching will click by then,”
With a lot of games on the horizon this upcoming week, the Knights’ performance this weekend will go a long way in determining how well they do later.
“Our hitting and defense are on track, and we’re heading in the right direction,” Nelson said.
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