March 20, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers looks ahead toward Pirate Invitational

Photo by Jeffrey Gomez |

This weekend, the Rutgers softball team will travel to Hampton, Virginia to play in the Pirate Invitational at Hampton University. There, it will take on three teams in Maryland Eastern Shore, Hampton and North Dakota. 

In the first game of a doubleheader on Friday, the Scarlet Knights (5-8) will play the Hawks (0-4). Having not yet won a game all season, Maryland Eastern Shore has been outscored 37-10 in its first four games. 

It is also allowing opponents to bat .352 against them, a good sign for a Rutgers team that is struggling at the plate, hitting a combined .219 thus far. 

The Hawks are led by Samantha Casarez at the plate, who is off to a red hot start batting .636, with four RBIs and a home run. In the circle, Nasya Goodman is their best pitcher and despite her 0-2 record, has a solid 2.45 ERA and eight strikeouts in 14.2 innings pitched.

After playing Maryland Eastern Shore, the Knights will play alternating games with the Pirates and Fighting Hawks, but will play Hampton first in the second game of their doubleheader on Friday. 

The Pirates (3-5) have two wins against Lafayette and another win against Youngstown State. Despite its 3-5 record, Hampton is a good hitting squad, batting .281 on the year so far. 

It holds opponents to a .269 batting average, making the Pirates ranked higher in both of those categories compared to Rutgers. 

If there’s one clear advantage that the Knights have over Hampton, it’s hitting the long ball. On the season, Rutgers has seven home runs compared to the Pirates, who only have one. 

Three of the seven home runs that the Knights have hit come off the bat of senior infielder Rebecca Hall, who is hitting .390 this year with 13 RBIs and three triples. 

Finally, Rutgers will take on North Dakota in the final game of the weekend. The Fighting Hawks (7-8), are on a four-game winning streak after playing in the Belmont Tournament last weekend. 

North Dakota has a 4.61 team ERA, compared to the Knights’ 4.28 ERA. It bats .247 at the plate while allowing opponents to hit .289 against them.

There is no team — including Rutgers — who has a winning record that is competing in the Pirate Invitational. This is good news for the Knights, as they could very well come out of the weekend above .500 for the first time this season. 

Look for Hall to stay hot, as she currently ranks sixth in the nation in triples with three. She also has three doubles and three home runs, with 13 RBIs and 34 total bases — 21 more bases than the next highest team member. 

As far as pitching goes, Rutgers’ top two starters, sophomore Cambria Keefer and junior Whitney Jones have pitched well despite their combined 4-6 record. Keefer has a 3.08 ERA, and Jones has an even lower one of 2.84. 

It's the Knights' bullpen that has struggled, as three pitchers have a combined 7.76 ERA and allowed opponents to bat .353 off of them, so far this season. 

The Maryland Eastern Shore matchup should be Rutgers’ easiest game of the weekend, while the games against Hampton and North Dakota may be tight. 

If Keefer and Jones can supply the above-average pitching that they have been delivering so far this year, look for Hall to power the team to scoring runs and earning some hard fought victories. 

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

Matthew Howe

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