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No. 4 Michigan halts Rutgers' win streak with sweep

<p>Junior third baseman Jordan Whitley loads up for a pitch in a 5-0 loss to No. 4 Michigan April 12 at the RU Softball Complex. The Wolverines swept the three-game series from Rutgers.</p>

Junior third baseman Jordan Whitley loads up for a pitch in a 5-0 loss to No. 4 Michigan April 12 at the RU Softball Complex. The Wolverines swept the three-game series from Rutgers.

Entering the weekend, the Rutgers softball team was cruising. 

Hosting No. 4 Michigan in a three-game series at the RU Softball Complex, the Scarlet Knights put their seven-game winning streak to the test against one of the nation's elite.

But they never got going. 

Megan Betsa and Haylie Wagner combined for 17 innings pitched, three earned runs and 26 strikeouts to lead the Wolverines to a three-game sweep over the Knights.

Michigan (37-6) put the exclamation point on its dominant weekend with a 5-0 shutout Sunday afternoon to cap a weekend where its lineup outscored Rutgers, 39-3.

“I think we got better as the weekend went on,” said head coach Jay Nelson. “We are getting better at it and I don’t know if we will see pitchers that good the rest of the way and hopefully it will help us get ready for the rest of the season.”

In the series finale, Betsa dominated the Knights (20-12, 7-5), striking out 14 and only surrendering two hits to earn the win.

Rutgers was able to play the whole length of the game this time thanks to a strong performance behind senior left-hander Alyssa Landrith, who fanned seven batters in a complete game loss.

“This team hits the ball where it's pitched so it was important that I keep them off-balance and disrupt them as hitters, and I think it worked out better today than last game,” Landrith said. “Our focus was a bit better today, and I think that we can take that kind of intensity in to this next week and the weekend.”

Nelson was not satisfied with some of the illegal pitches called on Landrith, alluding to the negative impact it could have had on her rhythm in the circle.

Despite the southpaw's bulldog effort to keep the game manageable, Rutgers did not provide any support at the plate.

“(What) we want to take out of this series is making adjustments at the plate,” Nelson said. “We talked about hitting strikes in the strike zone and hitting the first good catch that we see and being able to hit both inside and outside.”

Michigan mercy-ruled Rutgers in the second game of the series, with a 16-3 shellacking in five innings. The Knights were able to ignite some offense before Wagner put the fire out, scoring three runs. 

Most notably, freshman first baseman Rebecca Hall notched her third home run on the season in the loss.

Wagner took the ball and got her 16th win of the season, which is one less than Betsa. She lowered her earned runs average (ERA) down to 2.08.

Five players in the Wolverines lineup had at least two runs batted in (RBI), lead by shortstop Abby Ramirez who had four.

For one of the few times in the season, the offense didn’t look like itself. Nelson credits Michigan’s game plan coming into the game.

“They have very good pitchers,” Nelson said. “(Michigan) had a really good plan of attack with our power hitters getting them to chase and with our other pitchers, they would throw strike one and we would take it and not attack.”

In the first game of the series, the Knights suffered an 18-0 shutout in five innings.

Betsa tossed a three-hitter on nine strikeouts in the mercy-rule shortened complete game.

Sierra Romero knocked in six runs on the strength of three hits for the Wolverines, while Kelly Christner and Aiden Falk each had four RBI.

Landrith was able to hold off the floodgates until the fourth inning when a seven-run rally broke the game wide open. 

She was pulled after giving up six earned.

“Moving forward, it will teach us to be a little more patient at the plate,” junior third baseman Jordan Whitley said about facing such good pitching. “Any pitcher that we see moving forward will be a little less challenging for us and the offense should be on fire.”

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

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