Rutgers looks to end 8-game skid
Having lost its last eight games in a row, things certainly do not get easier this weekend for the Rutgers softball team. The Scarlet Knights (17-23, 2-9) will host Big Ten opponent Northwestern in Piscataway for a three-game series from Friday through Sunday.
The Wildcats (26-13, 8-5) rank fourth in the Big Ten, and have a national RPI ranking of 36. Rutgers sits at dead last in the Big Ten conference and ranks 112 nationally, according to RPI.
Northwestern is an exceptional hitting team, with a combined team average of .290. The Wildcats also boast two of the top power hitting players in the country, with Morgan Nelson hitting .313 with 10 home runs and 32 RBI’s, and Rachel Lewis also batting .313 with 14 home runs (12th best in the country) and 50 RBI’s (also 12th best in the country).
The Northwestern lineup also features Sabrina Rabin, who hits .392 with 56 hits and 39 runs scored. The Wildcats have four players who hit above .300 this season.
Although Northwestern is led by its hitting at the plate, its pitching staff is solid as well. Combined, its staff ERA is 3.88 with 185 strikeouts. Its two starters, Kenna Wilkey (12-4, 3.36 ERA) and Morgan Newport (10-5, 3.87 ERA) and the rest of its pitchers allow hitters to bat a combined .260 off of them.
This weekend's matchup does not bode well for the Knights for one main reason — their pitching matchup against the powerful Wildcat lineup spells disaster. This season, the Rutgers pitching staff has a combined 4.59 ERA and allows teams to hit .325 off of them.
Not one Knights pitcher has an ERA under 4.00 and two relievers boast ERA’s over 6.00. Look for Northwestern to open things up early and score a lot of runs in this series.
In order for the Rutgers to keep up with the runs the Wildcats are going to be putting on the board, it is going to have to rely on its two best hitters, senior first baseman Rebecca Hall and junior shortstop Jess Hughes.
Hall, who leads the Knights in almost every statistical category, is batting .378 with 11 doubles, six triples, 6 home runs and 36 RBI’s. Hughes is batting .307 on the season with five doubles and 3 home runs. She also leads the team in runs scored with 30 on the year.
Sophomore outfielder Hailey Hoklotubbe has reached base safely in 10 straight games and is batting .296 over that span. Her on-base percentage is also .387 over the 10-game streak.
As far as defense goes, Rutgers ranks first in the Big Ten and second in the nation at turning double plays, something they have relied on all year to get themselves out of jams.
After the three-game series in Piscataway ends on Sunday, the Knights will travel to Brooklyn on Wednesday to take on LIU Brooklyn for one game. Rutgers won the last game against the Blackbirds, 4-1, back on March 11.
For updates on the Rutgers softball team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.