Rutgers to face 2nd straight ranked opponent in No. 17 Michigan
This weekend, the Rutgers softball team will travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan to take on No. 17 Michigan in a three-game road series.
The Wolverines (33-7) have won their last nine games in a row and sit atop of the Big Ten with an 8-1 conference record. The Scarlet Knights (17-19) sit in the bottom three of the Big Ten, with a 2-5 conference record.
Rutgers is on a four-game slide dating back to April 1, when it lost the last game of the series against Penn State. The Knights were swept last weekend in a three-game series at home against Ohio State.
According to the rating percentage index (RPI), this is shaping up to be a lopsided matchup. Michigan checks in ranked No. 28, while Rutgers ranks No. 116 nationally. The Wolverines are 13-0 all time against the Knights in series played.
What has allowed Michigan to be such a dominant team all season is its phenomenal hitting paired with its dominant pitching. Having such a tremendous duo makes it near impossible for opponents to beat them, especially in it’s own stadium, where the Wolverines are 7-0 this season.
Six out of Michigan's nine starters hit .300 or better and its team average is .313 combined. Its top batter is junior Faith Canfield, who is hitting .404 with 10 doubles, 6 home runs and 32 RBI’s. She also leads the team in total bases with 85.
The Wolverine’s power comes from senior first basemen Tera Blanco, who is hitting .351 with 9 home runs and 34 RBI’s. She is leading the team in slugging percentage as well at .694 thus far.
As a team, Michigan has hit 33 home runs and has a combined 200 RBI’s. Comparably, Rutgers has hit 21 home runs and has a combined 141 RBI’s. The Knights also have a significantly lower team average, hitting .255 as a team.
The Wolverine’s pitching might be even stronger than their hitting. They have only used three pitchers for the entire season, and those three pitchers have put up some staggering statistics.
For example, the entire pitching staff's combined ERA is a mere 1.04. They also have 282 strikeouts in 261 innings pitched.
Michigan’s ace is freshman Meghan Beaubien, who is 24-2 on the season with a 0.79 ERA, 13th best in the nation. She has 176 strikeouts in 142 innings pitched and allows opposing hitters to bat a combined .123 off of her. Her eight shutouts on the season has her tied for sixth in the country.
The other ace in the Wolverines rotation, a power-hitting first baseman who doubles as a pitcher in Blanco, has a 7-2 record with a 1.25 ERA. The Knights will likely face Beaubien in two of three games and Blanco in one of the three games, posing a very difficult task for Rutgers.
Going up against two aces this weekend, it should be interesting to see whether or not junior infielder Jess Hughes can extend her hitting streak to 17 games, as she currently sits at 16.
Last game, Hughes did not receive an official at-bat as she walked three times and was also hit by a pitch. Because of that, her hit streak remains intact heading in to this weekend.
Senior first baseman Rebecca Hall will look to shoulder the load at the plate for the Knights, as she is Rutgers’ leading hitter, batting .395 with 10 doubles, six triples, 6 home runs, 34 RBI’s and 89 total bases.
Overcoming Michigan during a four-game losing streak will be a daunting task for the Knights, especially facing their second consecutive ranked opponent. If Rutgers can even win one game in Ann Arbor, consider it a huge victory.
The Knights will take on the Wolverines Friday evening at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. as part of a doubleheader and Sunday on ESPNU at 1 p.m. After the Michigan series, Rutgers will travel to Maryland (16-24) on Tuesday to take on the Terrapins in a doubleheader.
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