Rutgers looks to snap 12-game skid in East Lansing
On Friday, the Rutgers softball team will travel to East Lansing, Michigan to take on Michigan State in a three-game series with hopes of snapping its current 12-game losing streak. The Scarlet Knights (17-27, 2-12) have not won a single game in the month of April.
The Spartans (18-24, 4-11) rank 121 nationally in RPI, with Rutgers close behind checking in at 127. They rank 11th in the Big Ten standings, while the Knights are dead last after just two conference wins this season, so far.
Both teams have similar hitting statistics, with Michigan State checking in with a .262 team batting average and Rutgers close behind with a .257 team average. The Spartans' top hitter is Lea Foerster, who bats .361 with 17 doubles, 8 home runs and 20 RBI’s.
The Knights’ top batter is senior first baseman Rebecca Hall, who averages .385 with 12 doubles, six triples, 7 home runs and 37 RBI’s. The major difference between these two teams is its pitching, where Michigan State holds the advantage.
The Spartans' staff ERA is solid at 3.33, while Rutgers’ staff ERA is below average at 5.09. Michigan State also allows opposing hitters to bat .271 off of it, while the Knights allow their opponents to bat a much higher .333 off of them.
Rutgers will likely square off against the Spartans No. 1 pitcher, Kristina Zalewski, who is 10-10 on the season with a 2.20 ERA and 134 strikeouts in 121 innings pitched. She also only allows opponents to bat .249 against her.
The ace on the staff for the Knights is junior Whitney Jones, who has been lackluster this season, with a 8-13 record to go along with a 4.27 ERA and only 41 strikeouts. Jones also allows opposing batters to hit a very high .340 off of her, which has hurt her this season from the circle.
Junior shortstop Jess Hughes is another spark in the Rutgers lineup, as she is batting .312 on the year with five doubles and 4 home runs. She is second on the team in hits (44) and leads the team in stolen bases with eight bags swiped in nine attempts.
Hughes has also started and played in all 44 games this season, the only Knight to do so.
Although Hughes has been productive at the plate, her 18 errors at shortstop have certainly hurt Rutgers at times. But, she has also been responsible for turning 16 double plays, a stat the Knights rank very high nationally in.
With a staff ERA above 5.00, Rutgers needs to produce runs in this series if it is going to win the series, or at least win one game to snap its losing streak. Michigan State is a comparable team in many aspects, so expect every game in this series to be very close and competitive.
After the series with the Spartans, the Knights only have four games remaining in the regular season. They will take on Hofstra (34-8, 15-0) at home on Wednesday in one more non-conference contest, before a final three-game series against Indiana (23-25, 15-2) at home beginning on Friday.
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