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Rutgers swings to sweep Buckeyes, protect Big Ten ranking

<p>Junior right-hander Dresden Maddox has high expectations for Rutgers in its weekend series with Ohio State this weekend in Columbus, Ohio.</p>

Junior right-hander Dresden Maddox has high expectations for Rutgers in its weekend series with Ohio State this weekend in Columbus, Ohio.

During its inaugural season into Big Ten Conference, Rutgers hasn't had the best of luck against Ohio State on almost any level of athletics. Whether it was the 56-17 shellacking in football, a 79-60 drubbing at the RAC in men’s basketball or an 85-68 road pounding in women’s basketball.

Starting on Friday at 6 p.m., the Rutgers softball team looks to change the school’s luck against the Buckeyes in Columbus.

“I have high expectations for us,” said junior right-hander Dresden Maddox. “We are more than capable of sweeping them and I think that we will end up hitting the ball really well, having good pitching outings and come out of it successful.”

Ohio State (22-18, 6-8) enters the series ranked one slot behind the Scarlet Knights (23-12, 7-5) at seventh in the conference.

“They’re pretty evenly ranked with us, so its going to be a tough series but we are ready for it,” said senior left-hander Alyssa Landrith.

On paper, Ohio State may be the most similar team the Knights play this season. 

The Buckeyes excel at the plate, hitting .334 as a team. But they struggle on the mound, boasting a team earned run average (ERA) of 5.63.

Rutgers boasts a .306 batting average, which saw a big drop after the Michigan series, along with a 5.15 team ERA.

For the Buckeyes, six players bat .325 or better on the season compared to the Knights' four, with 11 in total batting over .300 compared to Rutgers' seven.

Ohio State is led by a trio of players. Freshman outfielder Ballee Sturgeon leads for them hitting .438, senior outfielder Caitlin Conrad bats .394 with nine homeruns and 37 runs batted in (RBI) on the season and junior shortstop Maddy McIntyre boasts similar numbers hitting .380 with nine homeruns and 37 RBI.

While they perform at the plate and on the mound, the Buckeyes have only one pitcher, senior Olivia O’Reilly. With 71 walks to 65 strikeouts, she has struggled with command on her way to surrendering 131 hits over 114 innings on the season.

Rutgers comes into the series once again on a win streak — to a lesser extent this time at three games — after winning all of its midweek match ups.

"They're definitely really important, especially after the sweep,” senior centerfielder Jackie Bates said of the midweek wins. “I think it’s giving us really good momentum going in to Ohio State this weekend, so we are definitely on the right foot going into the next series.”

All-time, the Knights are 0-2 against the Buckeyes. But after this weekend, there is a chance they can flip the script and capture the winning record.

Although Rutgers travels to Ohio State's home field this weekend, it won’t necessarily be a disadvantage. The Knights are 8-3 on the road this season, while the Buckeyes are 4-8 defending their home field.

Bates feels that it puts the team in a comfortable position to seize the win. 

“As a team, we are trying to take it one game at a time, one pitch at a time,” she said. “We are trying to sweep them, if we can but try to slow the game down and play the best that we can.”

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

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