The long dark night of Maryland's softball season came to an end Sunday. On the schedule, the end comes Sunday, May 4 after the final game of the season against Pitt in College Park but a doubleheader loss to the Irish on Sunday April 27 mathematically ended Maryland's chances (as implausible as they were) to qualify for the ACC Tournament. The twenty-first ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish swept Sunday's doubleheader with a 9-0 run rule win in the first game and a come from behind 8-5 win in the nightcap. The Irish completed the series sweep winning another run rule shortened game 9-1 Monday night in a game televised on ESPNU.
Although the Terps lost three solid, if unspectacular contributors from last season's 31-26 squad, the core of the team returned and Coach Laura Watten expected several players in the freshman class to have an immediate impact on the program. Among the returnees, were 2013 ACC Freshman of the Year, Lindsey Schmeiser, catcher Shannon Bustillos who, as a sophomore, improved in every offensive category other than home runs, and the Terrapins' starting pitching duo of Kaitlyn Schmeiser and Madison Martin.
Both Schmeiser and Martin had some consistency issues in 2013 but the former was coming off back surgery and the latter was a freshman. With a healthy Schmeiser and a more experienced Martin, as well as the return of a healthy Brenna Nation, it looked as though the Terps would have a competitive pitching rotation. Such was not the case.
An unexpected fall
The Maryland website hasn't posted statistics for the 2014 season so I can't compare player's performances from last season to this but I can make some comparison of the team's year over year performance with the following caveat: the stats from 2013 are from a full 57 game season and the stats for 2014 are through 42 games.
However, in terms of their record, after 42 games last season, Maryland was 21-21. The Terps reached that mark after opening the season winning only five of their first twenty games. This season, they opened 1-19, lost some winnable games to the weather and never recovered. After 42 games this season, the Terps were 8-34.
Where did things go wrong? As with the baseball team's lost weekend at Boston College, the answer is everywhere. On the mound, the Terps ERA went from 4.08 to 6.31. Meanwhile, the team batting average dropped from .274 to .262. Run production suffered even more. Last season, Maryland scored over six runs per game. This season that number dropped below four. When a team scores two and a half fewer runs per game and gives up two and a half more, the fall from 21-21 to 8-34 becomes inevitably apparent.