Series sweep overshadows senior's historic feat for Rutgers

In the designated hitter role, freshman Sierra Maddox provided a spark for Rutgers with a solo home run in the 4-3 loss to Penn State on April 26.
Photo by Edwin GanoIn the designated hitter role, freshman Sierra Maddox provided a spark for Rutgers with a solo home run in the 4-3 loss to Penn State on April 26.

History continues to be made by the Rutgers softball team. 

Last week, senior left-hander Alyssa Landrith set the record for all-time wins in program history. This week, senior centerfielder Jackie Bates decided to etch her name in the record books as the all-time home runs leader with 35.

“It feels good,” Bates said on the record. “It’s something I worked for throughout the season. In the beginning of the season, it was something I wanted but didn’t think I’d get. As we got closer and realized I could do it, I was not chasing pitches. I took it one at a time and stayed within myself."

Like Landrith establishing herself as the winningest pitcher in program history, Bates has established herself as arguably the greatest power hitter in program history. 

She set the record for most homeruns in a single season last week and is just two runs batted in short of setting the regular season record for that category.

However, her record-setting weekend was overshadowed as the Scarlet Knights (26-17, 10-10) were swept in three games by Penn State in Happy Valley.

“We didn’t make adjustments at all over the weekend at the plate,” said head coach Jay Nelson. “It’s frustrating to go in to Penn State and lose three games when I know we are just as good, if not better. We just didn’t play well.”

After taking a 3-0 lead in to the bottom of the seventh in game three on a two-run single in the first by junior third baseman Jordan Whitely and a solo homerun by freshman designated hitter Sierra Maddox, it disappeared with the swing of a bat by the Nittany Lions (27-24, 9-11).

As Maddox's production has continued to increase, Nelson has continued to slide her up in the batting order.

“I think staying at it during practices and as the team got better, it gave me more confidence,” she said of her sudden emergence. “I’m glad I have the opportunity to contribute this late.”

With two outs and two runners on base, Penn State's junior left fielder Erin Pond hit an inside-the-park homerun to tie the game and send it to extra innings.

In the bottom of the ninth, junior centerfielder Lexi Kneif broke the tie by driving in the winning run to give the Nittany Lions a 4-3 triumph.

After dropping a close one in the first game of the series, Rutgers wanted to make sure it gave itself a chance to have a rubber game on Sunday.

Penn State didn’t let it happen. 

Behind a strong offensive performance at the plate, the Nittany Lions won the second game of the series, 12-6.

Penn State tallied 12 hits and the top of the order did the damage with the one through five batters accumulating all the runs batted in.

The struggles of putting together two consistent back-to-back starts arose once again as junior right-hander Dresden Maddox started and was only able to get through two and two-thirds innings after surrendering five runs. 

Sophomore Shayla Sweeney entered in relief, but could not find the zone. She surrendered seven runs on 10 hits over three and one-third innings.

The Knights' two through six hitters all had two hits and combined to go 10-19 with five RBI, but it was to no avail.

Game one of the series was even worse for Rutgers, especially at the plate as struggles began in a 3-1 loss. It received a strong start from Landrith, who  struck out nine in six innings of work.

The Knights failed to provide much offense for their ace, notching just four hits in the contest.

Penn State freshman Jessica Cumming started the first two games of the series, going a combined 12 innings to put her team in position to win.

In game one, she was more dominant. She fired a complete game, striking out five and only giving up four runs holding Rutgers in check.

“We have to learn from these three games to avoid our mistakes,” Nelson said. “We have to get tougher. When we make mistakes we can’t afford to hang our head."

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