Penn State Softball Preview vs. Rutgers
Another weekend and another opportunity for Penn State to expand upon its success that has led to a turnaround under second-year head coach Clarisa Crowell.
It took the team 41 attempts to muster up seven conference wins last season, but with just one win this weekend, the Nittany Lions can surpass that win total from a year ago.
The Nittany Lions will look for that win, and a few more, as they head to Rutgers to face a team spiraling out of control towards the bottom of the Big Ten standings.
The Scarlet Knights are on a 12-game losing streak and post a conference record of 1-13 after being swept in a doubleheader against Maryland on Tuesday.
The Scarlet Knights’ problems can be traced back to a lack of pitching depth with just three pitchers on the roster and only two finding consistent innings in the circle.
Jaden Vickers, Ashley Hitchcock and Georgia Ingle all allow over four runs per game, combining for a team ERA of 4.15. That ERA balloons to 6.71 in conference play.
Though there is no true ace on the staff, Vickers leads the way with an ERA of 4.17, 151 strikeouts and a 14-8 record in nearly 150 innings of work.
This lack of pitching depth could be a chance for the entire Nittany Lion lineup to pounce.
The tandem of Cassie Lindmark and Ally Kurland continue to wreak havoc at the top of the lineup for Penn State.
Lindmark, whose .533 on-base percentage and .426 batting average rank second and fourth in the Big Ten respectively, and Kurland, whose 16 home runs are third in the Big Ten, have been on their own for much of the season.
Led by Maggie Finnegan, who hit 4-8 with four-extra base hits including two home runs, the bottom of the order provided sparks against Indiana. Kaitlyn Morrison, Liana Jones and Lexie Black all provided RBIs from the bottom half of the order.
If the bottom of the order can contribute like they did against Indiana, it will make the lineup that much more dangerous.
But just as a lack of pitching depth might help them, it could prove costly for the blue and white.
After a shutout by Bailey Parshall on Friday evening, the pitching staff struggled the rest of the weekend against Indiana.
Kylee Lingenfelter and Lydia Spalding combined to allow 11 runs in the loss on Saturday.
But possibly more concerning for Penn State could be Parshall’s Sunday struggles. Parshall showed her grit to secure her 16th victory of the season, but allowed a season-high six runs in the process.
The ace for Penn State has pitched to an ERA of 1.67 and a WHIP of .79 with 153 strikeouts across 150.2 innings pitched. Her and the rest of the staff will look to rebound this weekend.
The lineup they will look to rebound against is led by Kyleigh Sand, Gabrielle Callaway and Kayla Bock. These three have paved the way for the Rutgers lineup by batting over .300 this season.
Sands leads the team with a .417 batting average and can create runs on the basepaths as she is second in the Big Ten in stolen bases.
Callaway is the lone power threat in the Scarlet Knight lineup with 10 home runs and a slugging percentage of .700.
The Rutgers lineup is not dependent on just these three hitters as the bottom of the order has proven the ability to contribute. The team ranks towards the middle of the Big Ten with a .278 batting average and towards the top with 218 runs scored.
After back-to-back rough weekends for the Nittany Lions pitching staff, shutting down this lineup would get them back on track.
The first pitch of this series is slated for 1 p.m. on Friday in New Jersey.
Justin Ciavolella is a first-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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