If the frustrations of an unsuccessful season can be encapsulated in a single day, the Maryland softball squad's doubleheader loss to the visiting Virginia Tech Hokies Saturday did just that. The Terps dropped the first game 3-0 and fell in the nightcap by an 8-6 final score. The twin bill loss guarantees that the Terps will record the fewest wins in any season in the program's twenty year history, all but assures that, though they will host it, they will not participate in this season's ACC Tournament, and leaves them two losses shy of recording the most losses in a season.
Solid pitching, silent bats
In the opener, Maryland got a third consecutive strong effort from Kaitlyn Schmeiser who pitched all seven innings giving up three runs - only two of which were earned. However, as has often been the case this season, when the Terps have gotten a strong effort on the mound, their bats have fallen silent. And the bats couldn't have been much more silent as Maryland mustered only a single hit - an infield single in the bottom of the first by Shannon Bustillos - off Hokies starter Kelly Heinz. Coming into the game, Heinz had a respectable, though far from unhittable, 15-11 record with an ERA over 3.50.
Virginia Tech notched single runs in the second, third, and fifth innings. They strung together a two out double and single for their first run in the second. In the top of the third, a leadoff double, a wild pitch and a steal of home gave the visitors a 2-0 lead. The Hokies picked up the insurance run in the fifth with Lauren Gaskill eventually coming around to score on a sacrifice fly after reaching bas on an error by Terrapins third baseman Jessica Warner.
Other than Bustillos, the only other Terrapin to reach base was
shortstop second baseman (thanks to Hollywood Unger for the correction) Corey Schwartz, playing in place of the injured Lindsey Schmeiser. Schmeiser, last season's ACC Freshman of the Year, tore her MCL in Wednesday's game against Delaware State and will miss the remainder of the season. Schwartz led off the Maryland third with a walk and moved to second on a groundout to the pitcher. She was doubled off the base when Amanda McCann flied out to center.
Offense awakens, pitching takes a nap
The second game was the opposite of the first. In this outing, the Terps certainly scored enough runs to win the game but they were victimized by ineffective pitching and a very questionable decision by Coach Laura Watten in the bottom of the seventh.
In the top of the first, it looked as though the visitors would win in a rout as they exploded for four runs chasing starter Brenna Nation before she recorded a single out. With one run in and the bases loaded with none out, Madison Martin came into the game in relief of Nation and was on the verge of escaping with no further damage after recording infield pop outs on the first two batters she faced. However, designated hitter Lauren Spaw smacked a bases clearing double to the fence in right center to give the visitors their four run lead.
The Terps bounced right back, though, picking up two in the bottom of the inning. McCann opened the inning with a walk and came around to score on Bustillos' triple. Bustillos would later score on Jessica Warner's ground out to short.
Martin settled in and held Tech scoreless through the fifth. Meanwhile, Maryland picked up a run in the bottom of the fourth when Sarah Calta, pinch running for Warner who had opened the inning with a single, stole second and came around to score on Juli Strange's single to right. Strange would get doubled off third on a line drive out to short to cut off the Terrapins' threat. The Terps pulled ahead 6-4 in the bottom of the fifth on Bustillos' three run homer to left that drove in Martin and McCann who had reached ahead of her on a single and a walk.
The Hokies finally got to Martin in the top of the sixth picking up two runs to square the score at six. A two out walk in the top of the seventh by Kaitlyn Schmeiser, who had come on in relief of Martin in the sixth, proved costly to the Terps as Tech followed that with a double and a single to score two more and take an 8-6 lead into the bottom of the seventh.
A puzzling decision
Down to their last out, Juli Strange drew a walk to keep the Terps fading hopes alive. Freshman Kylie Datil lashed a line drive to the fence in right and Watten made the very puzzling decision to wave Strange around third for what would have been a meaningless seventh run. Strange, who is not the Terps' fastest base runner, was out by several feet. Had Watten held Strange at third with two outs, the same hit needed to score Datil from second to tie the game would have also knocked in Strange.
I can only think that the coach thought Strange would score, Datil would advance to third on the play at the plate, and be in a position to score on a wild pitch, a passed ball, or an infield error. However, it seems to me that the risk far exceeded the reward. The Terps and Hokies close out the series at 1 pm Sunday.