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Rutgers softball looks to bounce back against Iowa

Junior infielder Kyleigh Sand leads the Rutgers softball team in batting average and will look to continue her hot stretch at the plate when the team plays against Iowa this weekend. – Photo by Steve Hockstein /

The Rutgers softball team will head to Iowa City, Iowa, to face off against Iowa in a three-game series this weekend. The Scarlet Knights (30-20, 7-10) will search for redemption after being swept over the last two weekends.

Rutgers has struggled recently, as it has lost its last eight games in a row. Though, the Hawkeyes (28-20, 8-9) have a similar record and resume to the Knights, and as such, the series might be close throughout all three games.

Iowa is also struggling coming into its series with Rutgers. The Hawkeyes are coming off an away series against Minnesota, where they were swept. Iowa only scored 1 run in three games played against the Golden Gophers (29-16, 10-6).

The Hawkeyes are currently eighth in the Big Ten softball standings, and the Knights are 11th in the Big Ten softball standings. A series win would vault Rutgers ahead of Iowa in the Big Ten softball standings due to the tiebreaker that the Knights would own.

Both teams are pretty similar when it comes to hitting. Rutgers sits fourth in the Big Ten conference with a .287 batting average, whereas the Hawkeyes sit in fifth with a .285 batting average.

The Knights hold a significant edge in power hitting and running the bases. Rutgers has hit double the amount of home runs that Iowa has hit and holds a superior .447 slugging percentage. The Knights also sit in third in the Big Ten with 77 stolen bases, which is 53 more stolen bases than the Hawkeyes have.

Rutgers' pitchers will have to look out for Nia Carter, who leads Iowa and also the Big Ten with a .470 batting average.

The Hawkeyes' strength is their pitching staff. Iowa is tied for second in the Big Ten with a 2.28 earned run average (ERA). The matchup is not ideal for the Knights, as they have struggled to score runs in their last two series.

Rutgers' batters will most likely have to face Breanna Vasquez sometime during the series. Vasquez has pitched in 27 games for the Hawkeyes and leads the team with 16 wins and a 1.96 ERA. She is 1 of 7 pitchers in the Big Ten that have an ERA under two.

Despite their struggles batting over their last six games, the Knights have had a high-powered offense overall. They have scored 260 runs this season, which ranks as the third most in the Big Ten. The Rutgers pitching staff has a 3.05 ERA which puts them around the middle of the pack in the Big Ten.

The Knights will rely on junior shortstop Kyleigh Sand and junior pitcher and outfielder Morgan Smith to get them out of their hitting slump. Sand leads the team with a .383 batting average and leads the entire Big Ten with 26 stolen bases. Smith is second on Rutgers with a .331 batting average and leads the team with 39 RBIs.

This weekend's series will be the Knights' penultimate series of the regular season. Rutgers would benefit from winning the series in order to obtain a higher seeding in the Big Ten tournament. 

The series opener will start on Friday at 6 p.m., followed by a Saturday game at 3 p.m. and the series will conclude with a game on Sunday at 1 p.m. All three games will be broadcasted on Big Ten Plus.

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

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