PISCATAWAY, N.J. – In 2017, Rutgers softball embarked on another grueling campaign, opening the slate with 34 straight games on the road. The Scarlet Knights battled through a heavy away schedule and numerous game changes due to weather, all while sporting a fresh lineup with a mix of veteran returners and five freshmen in starting roles.
Freshman Taryn Atlee led the stat sheet for RU in batting average (.393), hits (66), and triples (4). Her 66 hits ranked second in the league to end the season, while also sitting at second on Rutgers all-time single-season record list behind Carla Camino with 92 hits in 1993.
Junior Rebecca Hall led Rutgers and finished seventh in the Big Ten with a .691 slugging percentage, including 12 home runs. Her 12 homers rank fourth on RU's single-season records list, bringing her career total to 22 which ranks third on the career charts. Additionally, Hall was Rutgers top run generator, adding 46 RBIs to her stat line.
Senior Shayla Sweeney finished in the top 10 of Rutgers career records in saves (5), wins (34), innings pitched (418.1) and shutouts (5). The righthander paced the pitching staff with 10 wins, three complete game shutouts, and 152.0 innings pitched in 2017.
AWARDS AND ACCOLADES
Taryn Atlee picked up First Team All-Big Ten and All-ECAC Second Team for her stellar performance as a rookie. She became the first Scarlet Knight to earn first team accolades since the program entered the league and third to earn All-ECAC recognition. Atlee was also named a named a top 25 finalist for the 2017 Schutt Sports/NFCA National Freshman of the Year award.
Hall earned NFCA All-Great Lakes Region First Team honors, marking the first to pick up first team recognition since RU entered the Big Ten.
“Honors are always great to see because it is recognition of the hours of work that an athlete has put in to get to where they are,” said head coach Jay Nelson. “Their piers recognize that they are preforming at a high level. Congratulations to both Taryn and Becca. Job well done.”
Junior Jacqueline Kott was honored as the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award recipient for Rutgers.
In April, Anyssa Iliopoulos was named to the Greek National Softball team. She is set to compete with the squad at the European Softball Championship to be held in Bollate, Italy, from June 25 to July 1, 2017.
Rutgers yet again delivered a challenging schedule, crossing paths with 10 teams that qualified for the 2017 NCAA Tournament. The Scarlet Knights opened the season with 34 straight contests on the road, hosting their first home contests in the beginning of April. Overall, the squad competed in 43 of 54 total games away from the friendly confines of the RU Softball Complex.
RU faced four teams that are either ranked or receiving votes in the latest rankings, including Big Ten foes Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin.
“Playing tough opponents prepares our hitters with facing great pitching,” said Nelson. “They have to make adjustments to figure out how to hit challenging pitches. They will need that when competing in Big Ten contests. Also, when our pitchers face good hitters they need to figure out how to get them out and need to be precise with their pitches.
“We proved we could compete with good teams by beating three teams that earned their way into the NCAA regional tournament, namely Florida A&M, North Dakota State and Lehigh who we beat twice.”
SUCCESS IN THE CLASSROOM
The Scarlet Knights continue their success off the field, as 10 were named Academic All-Big Ten. To be eligible for Academic All-Big Ten selection, student-athletes must be letterwinners who are in at least their second academic year at their institution and carry a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or higher.
The honorees included Nicolette Anico, Bridget Carr, Dana Hendry, Whitney Jones, Jacqueline Kott, Aubrie Levine, Sierra Maddox, Shayla Sweeney, Carly Todd, and Meaghan Wells.
“Our team goal is to reach a 3.2 GPA and we achieved that this year,” said Nelson. “We look to compete at the top levels both on the field and in the classroom. While we have a lot of work to do to reach our athletic goals, we are competing at the top level in the classroom. Professionally, our student’s academic success is propelling them into successful careers.”
THANK YOU SENIORS
Rutgers bid farewell to its 2017 senior class - Bridget Carr, Dana Hendry, Aubrie Levine, Shayla Sweeney, and Carly Todd.
Most notably, as freshmen the group guided RU to its first postseason win since 1998 at the American Athletic Conference championship in the spring of 2014. The following season, the Scarlet Knights helped the program transition into the Big Ten Conference, posting back-to-back trips to the league tournament in 2015 and 2016.
The seniors reflections on their careers can be found here.
Rutgers is set to return 13 letterwinners, while adding nine freshmen to the roster.
“The future is bright and I am confident we will compete at a high level,” said Nelson. “This year we had three freshmen starting in key positions in the infield and they did a incredible job. We have two returners and four freshmen pitchers joining us next year. At least three of the freshmen pitchers are good hitters so that will give us some flexibility in our batting line up.”
A short bio on several of the Scarlet Knights’ incoming freshmen can be found here.
“We will be young next year and will have to come together as a team to be successful,” said Nelson. “My goal for this team is to impress upon them the necessity to play for each other. This year our goal has to be about team first and everything else will fall into place.”
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