Rutgers drops all 4 matches in opening weekend

<p>Head coach Jay Nelson said that defensive errors were a factor in the Knights’ disappointing opening weekend.</p>

Head coach Jay Nelson said that defensive errors were a factor in the Knights’ disappointing opening weekend.

As a young squad with multiple starting freshmen, the Rutgers softball team will go through some growing pains throughout the course of their season. Some of it was evident during their opening weekend.

The Scarlet Knights (0-4) dropped all four of their games at the Ohio Softball Field in Athens, Ohio, despite having a lead at some point during every game. Their bats were hot early in the games, but seemed to cool down as they progressed.

Despite the sweep, head coach Jay Nelson remained optimistic, explaining that results like this were the consequence of having a young team.

Nelson said there were a lot of errors and plays that should have been made on defense that could have made the difference between a win and loss; it will be something the team will work on in practice. In addition, Nelson said he would have the team work on scenarios encountered during games in order to prepare better for what could happen in future games.

The Knights started their weekend with a back-and-forth battle with the Northern Illinois (2-2, 0-2) Friday morning. The Huskies jumped out to a 5-0 advantage after an inning and a half, but Rutgers responded with six runs in the bottom of the second to take the lead. After multiple leads and ties, The Knights took a 9-8 lead into the top of the seventh and were one out away from opening their season with a win. But the Huskies rallied for nine runs to win the game 17-9.

Rutgers didn’t fare much better in their second game on Friday, losing 8-5 to Ohio (8-1, 2-0).

The Knights opened the game with two runs in the top of the first before the Bobcats tied it in the bottom of the second. Rutgers pushed across a run in the top of the third, but gave up six runs in the latter half of the frame, including a grand slam. They attempted a comeback in the seventh, but only plated two, and lost.

Rutgers returned to the diamond the following day hoping to avenge both losses. But in what turned out to be its only game of the day, it lost to Northern Illinois in a similar fashion as the day before.

The Knights took an early lead thanks to doubles by senior Carly Todd and freshman Nicole Bowman. The Huskies tied the game in the bottom of the fourth, but Rutgers responded with a home run from junior Sierra Maddox an inning later to retake the lead. Unfortunately, its pitching was unable to hold the lead, giving up five runs in the sixth.

After its Saturday afternoon rematch with Ohio was cancelled due to lighting and timing problems, Rutgers settled for a lone game against the Bobcats Sunday morning. But yet again, recurring issues prevented them from walking away victorious.

The Knights got off to a fast start, taking a 2-0 lead in the first on Nicole Bowman’s first collegiate home run. Ohio answered back in the bottom of the frame with two runs, one unearned. Rutgers got an unearned run of their own in the third, but again the Bobcats evened the score. Ohio scored all of the remaining runs in the game with four in the fourth and five in the sixth, getting the 9-3 victory.

Two standout offensive performances from the weekend came Bowman and Todd, who each recorded hits in all four games. In her first games on the collegiate stage, Bowman had four hits and drove in six runs. Todd had a similar stat line, recording six hits and driving in four.

On the mound, Rutgers were led by 13.1 innings from senior Shayla Sweeney, who either started or relieved in all four games. Freshman Cambria Keefer started her first career game and came on in relief in the other three games, pitching a combined 3.1 innings.

The Knights return to action this Friday through Sunday in Fort Myers, Florida for the FGCU/Four Points by Sheraton Invitational. Their schedule features games against Florida International, Hofstra, Boston College, Florida Gulf Coast and Wisconsin, as they hope to break the win column for the first time in 2017.

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

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