The Maryland softball team headed into the ACC Tournament likely needing to take the title to earn their fourth consecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament but certainly needing to reach the finals at a minimum. The Terps took two of three from their first opponent, the Virginia Tech Hokies in Blacksburg in the regular season’s final series last weekend but have never beaten them in ACC Tournament play. That futility continued as Maryland fell by a final of 8-5.
Sophomore Kaitlin Schmeiser took the circle for the Terps and got off to a bit of a rough start giving up two singles and a walk as VT took a 1-0 lead after the top of the first. The Terps failed to answer despite a one out bunt single from Sara Acosta.
After her early jitters, Schmeiser appeared to have settled down in the second, striking out the side in order for the first three up three down inning of the game. The Terps stranded another runner in the bottom of the second. Trouble deepened for Maryland in the third. A single off K. Schmeiser’s leg with a throwing error put the lead off hitter on second. A fly ball to deep center ticked off Acosta’s glove for a triple and that blast was followed by an even longer shot off the scoreboard for a two run homer that put the Terps in a 4-0 hole.
Melissa Mancuso started the Maryland third reaching when she was hit by the first pitch of the inning. Amanda McCann followed with a walk and the Hokies changed pitchers. Acosta walked on four pitches to load the bases with none out for Lindsay Schmeiser who set the Maryland single season RBI record with a titanic blast over the left field fence to up her RBI total from 55 to 59 and tie the score. The Terps went down in order after the grand slam. However, Schmeiser continued to be ineffective in the circle giving up back to back doubles to VTs’s eighth and ninth hitters to open the fourth before leaving the game for Lexi Carroll with the Terps trailing five to four. Carroll started by retiring the first batter on a ground out to first but then yielded a single to left that drove in a run. She followed that with three consecutive four pitch walks to load the bases and walk in a run with one out. The string of walks ended with a hit batter on a 1-2 count. The inning finally ended on a bunt that catcher Shannon Bustillos fielded standing on home plate and throwing to first for the double play but after clawing back to tie the game the Terps again found themselves in a four run hole. Maryland had no answer in the bottom of the fourth going down in order.
Maddie Martin came in to start the fifth for the Terps and retired the side in order. However, the Terps again went down in order in their half of the inning giving Virginia Tech nine straight outs following Schmeiser’s grand slam.
Martin continued to be effective in the top of the sixth erasing the one batter to reach on a double play grounder to second. Bustillos leading off the sixth was hit by a pitch. Coach Watten inserted Bria Taylor as a pinch runner and Taylor stole second. Candice Beards hit a chopper up the middle and the Tech shortstop had no play. The infield single put runners on the corners before Beards stole second without drawing a throw. With two runners in scoring position, Nikki Maier lined a single to center driving in Taylor and putting runners on the corners for pinch hitter Corey Schwartz. Maier stole second on the first pitch. Schwartz drew a walk after appearing to be hit by a pitch that recalled her after an umpiring conference. Tech changed pitchers with the bases loaded, no one out and the score standing at 8-5. Liane Newton came up to pinch hit for Strange and stuck out swinging at a pitch out of the zone. With the infield drawn in, Mancuso hit a line drive that the Tech second baseman made a diving catch and McCann ground out to second to end the inning.
Martin gave up a lead off single to start the seventh - her first hit of the game. Juli Strange fielded the sac bunt attempt but no one covered second and her throw went into center field to put runners on the corners with no one out. A stolen base out runners on second and third before Martin recorded a strike out, a pop out to second and a ground out to escape without giving up a run. The Terps came to bat in the bottom of the seventh trailing by three in their last chance to prolong their season and went three up and three down meaning that the Terrapin seniors will, for the first time in their Maryland careers miss the NCAA Tournament..
Todd Carton (AKA FHFAN)