Rutgers readies for Texas A&M Invitational

The Rutgers softball team will head to College Station, Texas to participate in the Texas A&M Invitational. There the Scarlet Knights (3-2) will face Liberty, McNeese State and No. 22 Texas A&M in a five-game series. 

Rutgers’ series will begin and end with the Flames (1-4), who have lost their last four games in a row. Despite its recent cold streak, Liberty is not a team to overlook, as 5 of its starting 9 batters hit .300 or better. The Flames' top batter is infielder Jaclyn Amader, who is hitting .471 with eight hits, two doubles and three RBI’s in five games. 

While Liberty's hitting stats have been impressive, their scores have not, scoring only 3 runs in their last four games. The reason for this comes from the Flames leaving a whopping 31 runners stranded during its losing streak.

Momentum can be important for a team, whether it has a winning streak, like the Knights' three-game one or a losing streak like Liberty. Head coach Kristen Butler has her plan to keep the momentum rolling throughout the season. 

"I think that great preparation will be key. The girls were really enjoying themselves (in Georgia) and we took a lot of notes on how to make improvements," Butler said. "Winning is contagious. We just have to keep the girls focused and really keep preparing, making sure that we're going into each game with a game plan."

Another team Rutgers will see twice in College Station, is the Cowgirls (3-3). They are coming off a strong 2018 campaign, finishing the season at 41-21 with an 18-9 in conference record.

McNeese State has looked streaky this season, with 4 of its 6 games so far being decided by 5 runs or more, including two wins and two losses.

If the Knights are hoping for a high-scoring day against the Cowgirls, they might want to get their hits early while they can, as their opponent has a good relief pitcher in Saleen Flores. She has a very impressive 1.62 ERA on the season. Flores has only allowed 2 earned runs in her eight innings on the mound, one coming from a ranked Arkansas team. 

The real challenge in the series for Rutgers will be against the one-loss ranked Aggies (4-1). Texas A&M is showing no signs of slowing down after finishing last season at 44-18. The Aggies have won all of their games this year by mercy rule in only five innings. They scored 9 or more runs in each of their wins, once scoring 10 runs in a single inning. 

Eight of the starting nine hitters for Texas A&M are hitting over .300 with six starters hitting over .500. This offensive powerhouse is led by third basemen Riley Sartain. 

Through five games, Sartain has seven hits, 3 home runs and eight RBI's. If the Knights are going to win, their pitchers will have to avoid putting Sartain on base.

Butler is excited for the challenge against the Aggies and is looking forward to Saturday's game.

“It’s going to be a fun atmosphere. I’ve been to Texas A&M before and they have a great home crowd. It’s going to be loud and we’re really excited," Butler said. "The game will mimic what a conference game will be like at Michigan or Ohio State, so I think it’s going to be a great preparation for the team to play in that environment, in that stadium with the crowd.” 

Butler also mentioned how the expectations in Texas will not change from how Rutgers has played in Georgia last week.

The Knights will face some difficult challenges this weekend, especially against a ranked opponent, but the team does have the ability to string several wins together this weekend.

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

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