Rutgers swept at home by Nebraska
After 34 games on the road, the Rutgers softball team finally returned home, hoping to use this advantage to pick up a series win. Instead, it was met with what can only be described as an unhappy homecoming.
The Scarlet Knights (10-27, 1-8) dropped all three games to Nebraska (16-20, 6-3) this weekend, which included giving up a 7-run lead in one game.
“There were a few positives, but you always feel down after losing a three-game series,” said head coach Jay Nelson. “Saturday we had a golden opportunity to take a game and improve our standing in the Big Ten, but we let it slip away.”
After Friday’s game was postponed due to rain, the teams played a doubleheader on Saturday, with Nebraska coming out victorious in the first game, 7-4.
The Cornhuskers started the scoring with 3 runs in the third, but Rutgers answered back with freshman third baseman Anyssa Iliopoulos’s 3-run home run to tie the game.
Nebraska retook the lead with 4 runs in the fifth thanks to three hits and two errors, putting the Knights on the ropes. And while it managed to push across a run in the bottom of the seventh, Rutgers was unable to complete the comeback.
The Knights were in prime position to get a win in the second game of the day, but a big lead early turned into a back-and-forth battle, which it lost 15-12.
“We were hanging a few pitches, which would have been outs on another day but the wind carried them out,” Nelson said. “We need to be prepared for that, because this is our field.”
Rutgers got off to a very quick start, taking an 8-1 lead after one inning but the Huskers responded with 7 runs over the next two innings to tie the game.
The Knights grabbed the lead right back with 2 runs each in the third and fourth, but Nebraska scored 4 of its own in the fifth and sixth to tie the game again. They would take the lead for good with 3 runs in the seventh, and shut the door on the Rutgers’ offense in the bottom of the frame.
Freshman Taryn Altee led the team with a 4-for-5 performance in the game and senior center fielder Carly Todd had a team-high three RBIs. Iliopoulos also added her second home run of the day and third on the year.
“It felt good to finally start getting my bat going,” Iliopoulos said. “I was just trying to see the ball in the box, attack the pitcher early, and get a good pitch to hit.”
Nebraska completed the sweep with a 7-2 win on Sunday morning, in a game that they led from the first inning to the final out.
The Huskers set the tone early with 2 runs in the first, but the Knights grabbed a run back in the bottom of the frame. The game remained scoreless until Nebraska broke it open with 3 runs in the fifth and 2 in the sixth.
Rutgers scored 1 more run in the bottom of the sixth, but that was all they could muster.
Freshman shortstop Nicole Bowman paced the Knights with two hits and junior catcher Sierra Maddox recorded both of Rutgers' RBIs.
Senior pitcher Shayla Sweeney lost all three games, dropping her record on the season to 8-12.
“I’m feeling a little run down from the season so far,” she said after Sunday’s game. “But today was much better than the rest of the weekend.”
Nelson added that Sweeney has thrown a lot of innings this season, and isn’t always playing to her potential due to fatigue, even though he too admitted that she pitched better on Sunday.
The Knights resume play on Friday in Iowa City, where it is set to begin a three-game series against Iowa.
“We have to turn the page and not let the past negativity influence the future,” Nelson said. “We can’t do anything about the past, and I don’t want them to think that they can’t win because they’re too good for that. We just need to get in our head that we’re tough, and when teams put a couple of runs, we have to get right back at them, all the way until the end.”
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