Rutgers comes from behind for Sunday victory over Penn State
If one were to look at the Rutgers softball schedule, one would also notice how all three of its Big Ten wins came in the last game of a series in which it has lost the first two. Such was the case against Indiana and Iowa, and it happened again this past weekend.
The Scarlet Knights (12-31, 3-12) took one out of three from Penn State (20-26, 6-11) at Beard Field in University Park, Pa., in what was their last road series of the season.
The three games this weekend told three different narratives: a back-and-forth slugfest that resulted in a loss, a shutout and a come-from-behind victory.
Rutgers started off on Friday by dropping a hard-fought eight-inning contest, 11-9. The game featured four lead changes.
The Knights struck early, tallying 5 runs in the first two innings. After benefitting from two errors in the first, junior designated hitter Rebecca Hall hit a bases-loaded 3-run triple to increase the lead.
The Lions roared back with 6 runs in the second and third to take the lead and end senior starting pitcher Shayla Sweeney’s night early.
“Shayla didn’t have command of the strike zone,” head coach Jay Nelson said. “She gave up a couple of home runs to let them back in the game. She didn’t have a good weekend, but she has carried us this far and I expect her to come back and do a good job during her next chance.”
Not to be outdone, Rutgers plated 5 runs in the fifth to take a 9-6 advantage. But Penn State had an answer yet again, tying the game with 3 in the sixth.
After neither team scored in the seventh, the game went to extras. While the Knights went down in order, senior pitcher Aubrie Levine gave up a 2-run home run to end the game.
“I just missed my spot,” she said. “I try to let the batter put the ball in the defense’s hands, and it didn’t happen with that one pitch.”
Hall had a career-best six RBIs in the loss and freshmen Taryn Atlee and Hailey Hoklotubbe both added two hits apiece.
“We watched a lot of game film leading up to this weekend, so we had an idea of where (Penn State’s) pitchers were going to throw it to us,” Hall said. “I felt like I was able to see their pitches pretty well and I was happy to perform like that for my team.”
Unlike the previous night, Saturday’s game was more of a one-sided affair, with the Nittany Lions coming out on top 7-0.
Just like Rutgers the night before, the hosts jumped out to an early lead, scoring 4 runs in the first. But unlike Penn State the night before, the Knights could not get their offense going.
Rutgers tallied just five hits in the contest, and its only sign of life came in the sixth, when Atlee and Hall both got hits. But Atlee was caught stealing and freshman shortstop Nicole Bowman followed Hall’s single with a groundout, leaving the Knights empty-handed.
Sweeney suffered the loss for Rutgers, lasting just one-thirds innings and giving up 4 runs, three hits and a walk. Levine pitched the rest of the game, allowing 3 runs on seven hits and four walks.
The Knights ended the weekend on a positive note, earning a 6-4 come-from-behind victory on Sunday. Nelson attributed the win to a change he made at the top of the lineup.
“Taryn Atlee has been getting on base a lot and we don’t always move her up, so I put her in the second spot and Nicolette Anico in the first spot,” he said. “Nicky had three hits and Taryn had two hits and moved the runners. I think we’ll stick with that going forward.”
After each team scored once in the first, Penn State tallied 1 run each in the second, fourth and fifth. Rutgers managed to cut the deficit to two in the sixth, before rallying in the seventh.
In the final inning, the Knights recorded two outs quickly and were on the verge of being swept. But after loading the bases, Bowman cleared them with a 3-run single to take the lead.
Carly Todd added a double to drive in Bowman, and sophomore Whitney Jones sent Penn State down in order to seal the win.
“It was really nice that we kept battling,” Hall said. “We didn’t come out on top on Friday and Saturday, so getting the win today was really important for us.”
Rutgers returns to the diamond tomorrow when it hosts Maryland for a double-header that was postponed from last week.
“Even though we didn’t win the series, you always want to win any game that you can,” Levine said. “Penn State has always been a challenge for us, so I think it was great that we were able to stay in it.”
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