After watching the women's lacrosse team take care of business against Notre Dame, I crossed the street to Robert E. Taylor Stadium to get my first look at Maryland's softball team. The 1-19 Terps, who have played one of the nation's toughest schedules, were coming off an extended break due to weather cancellations. The Terps hosted the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Maryland's first ACC action. Tech came into College Park with a record of 15-6 and 4-4 in the ACC. By the end of the day they had improved both those marks to 17-6 and 6-4 sweeping the scheduled doubleheader by scores of 7-4 and 4-1.
Rather than provide a detailed recap of the two games I'll summarize both losses and give some general impressions of the team. I should note that Maryland played without two regular starters - catcher Shannon Bustillos and right fielder Sarah Calta. As a result, coach Laura Watten tapped centerfielder Amanda McCann as her starting catcher, moved Madison Martin to centerfield, and started junior Bridget Hawvermale in right.
Kaitlyn Schmeiser got the start for the Terrapins in the first game and gave up single runs in each of the first three innings. The Terps scratched out a run in the bottom of the first on a double by Lindsay Schmeiser. After a scoreless fourth inning, Tech picked up two runs in the top of the fifth with the second run coming on a massive blast over the scoreboard in right center.
Trailing 5-1, the Terps got themselves back in contention with a pair of their own in the bottom half of the inning. However, the pitching staff failed to hold the Jackets scoreless in the sixth allowing two more runs to come across. Maryland showed some grit scoring once in the bottom of the sixth and putting the first two batters on base in the seventh but then, in a fitting conclusion to a game in which they stranded 13 runners, the Terps failed to push either one across dropping the 7-4 final.
The Terps were nearly equally guilty of leaving runners on in the nightcap. In the 4-1 loss, they left eleven on base.
Georgia Tech again drew first blood in the top of the first scoring on a single, a stolen base, a sacrifice bunt, and a sac fly. Maryland put runners on with two outs in the first and second innings but never threatened. In the top of the fourth, the Yellow Jackets broke through for three runs to take a 4-0 lead. The Terrapins got back to back singles from Jessica Warner and Candice Beards to start their half of the fourth but again failed to capitalize on the threat.
With a hit batter and an infield single to open the fifth the Terps were again poised to put some pressure on the visitors when a base running interference call negated a Tech error. Maryland did manage to push across one run but could do no further damage. Trailing by three with two innings to play, the terps again put two runners on the the sixth but lost an opportunity due to a questionable base running decision and again stranded two. With two out in the bottom of the seventh the Terps got back to back singles with Warner and Beards again doing the damage but, as had been the case all day, they couldn't get the timely hit and Tech completed the sweep.
Here are my general impressions of the softball Terps from what I've gleaned by looking over the box scores of many of the previous twenty games and from what I saw Saturday:
I saw a team that looks to have some good athletes but has others who look as though they need some time with a strength and conditioning coach.
I saw a team that doesn't appear to have a dependable seven inning pitcher but who often look good for an inning or two or three. As a result, I would be tempted to allow my pitchers no more than one time through an opponent's lineup by rotating pitchers out every two to three innings.
I saw a team that is not playing sound, fundamental softball. In addition to the base running blunders, I could cite instances where players failed to appropriately backup throws or misplayed what should have been routine fielding plays, missed chances to capitalize on their opponents' mistakes.
I saw a team that, because they fall behind early, puts too much pressure on themselves when they have the opportunity to drive in a run because everyone is trying to be the hero.
In other words, I saw a team that demonstrates all the hallmarks of one mired in a 1-21 stretch.
Perhaps they can put the lie to my impressions and break through with a win Sunday while I'm covering senior day with the gym Terps.