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Maryland softball wins three of five to open 2015 season

The Terps softball squad opened their 2015 season with five games at the Kickin' Chicken Classic on the campus of Coastal Carolina. Maryland picked up three wins in the five games. Here's how it happened.

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Led by new head coach Courtney Deifel and determined to leave any shadow of 2014 behind them the Maryland Terrapins softball squad embarked on their 2015 season at the Kickin' Chicken Classic hosted by Coastal Carolina. This season's roster is comprised of nearly the same roster as the 2014 squad. That Terps squad didn't win their second game March 22nd. They had already lost 23. It didn't take them as long to win game number three but the month had turned to April and their record was 3-25. Over three days in February, the Terps played the host Chanticleers and the Virginia Tech Hokies twice and the Lafayette Leopards once and came out of  the first weekend with the same record they had on April second last year - if you drop that last 2014 record's digit. Here's how Maryland emerged 3-2.

Friday - Hokie Heartbreak

Kaitlyn Schmeiser, who is expected to carry the bulk of Maryland's pitching load, got off to a nervous start in the Terps' first game of the season. As she struggled with her control, Virginia Tech jumped on top scoring three times in the top of the first. The Terps answered by scratching out a run in the bottom half of the inning when Corey Schwartz singled to drive in Juli Strange. Schmeiser still had difficulty settling in and gave up a two run homer to Tech's Breanna Davenport in the second.

After giving up another home run and a single to open the Hokies' fourth, Deifel brought in Hannah Dewey in relief of Schmeiser. Dewey got out of the inning without allowing the Hokies to do any further damage but the Terrapins now trailed 6-1. Virginia Tech added an unearned run in the top of the fifth and the Terps started their comeback in bottom half of the inning.

Kylie Datil led off the inning with a solo home run and Strange followed with a walk. She came around to score on Mandy Gardner's double down the right field line. At the end of five, Maryland trailed 7-3.

Dewey continued to hold the Hokies in check with a three up three down sixth. Showing she could compete from the batters box as well as the pitching circle, Dewey smacked a one out single to left in the bottom half of  the inning. The Terps loaded the bases on an error and a hit by pitch. Strange made the Hokies pay for the lapse with a two run double. Maryland added a sixth run on an illegal pitch and after Lindsey Schmeiser walked and stole second, had the potential tying and go ahead runs in  scoring position with one out. However, the Terps failed to get the ball out of the infield and trailed 7-6 headed into the seventh.

Dewey again held Tech without a score in the top half of the inning and Bridget Hawvermale led off the Terps' half reaching on a bunt and advancing to second on an error. She advanced to third on a sacrifice fly and Maryland loaded the bases when Dewey walked and Shannon Bustillos was hit by a pitch. But the Terrapins attempt to come all the way back fell just short when Datil struck out and Strange lined to second allowing the Hokies to hang on for the 7-6 win.

Saturday Game 1 - Not Quite Spotless

The Terps picked up their first win of the 2015 the season's second game an 8-2 caging of the Lafayette Leopards. Kaitlyn Schmeiser was back on the hill to start the game for Maryland and, unlike her Friday start against Virginia Tech, she settled into rhythm quickly and retired the Leopards in order in the top of the first.

Maryland's offense rewarded that effort by staking her to a three run lead in the bottom half of the inning. Sara Calta reached on a one out error and immediately got herself into scoring position by stealing second. With two gone, Corey Schwartz singled to right center picking up a first inning RBI just as she had Friday night. Mandy Gardner battled back from an 0-2 hole to lash a full count single to right center. Schwartz, who was running on the pitch scored all the way from first. Hannah Dewey continued her hot hitting by doubling to right driving in Gardner.

The Terrapins' defense let Schmeiser down a bit in the top of the third. KK, as she is called, had retired eight straight Lafayette hitters before giving up back to back two out singles. Terps errors on consecutive plays allowed the Leopards to put two unearned runs on the board marring an otherwise spotless performance by the senior. Schmeiser got out of the inning on a liner to second preserving a 3-2 Maryland lead.

Calta, who got the Terps started with a leadoff single in the bottom of the third, eventually came around to score on a sac fly by Gardner that boosted the lead back to two. Meanwhile, Schmeiser was absolutely lights out in the circle setting the Leopards down in order in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings and her teammates were capitalizing on their opportunities to pad the lead.

The Terps added a pair of runs in their half of the fifth inning on a two run home run off the bat of Corey Schwartz. Another two runs came in the bottom of the sixth on an odd play that one hopes was only an early season occurrence. Dewey opened the inning with a double and Erin Pronobis followed with a walk. With two on and one out, senior outfielder Bridget Hawvermale blasted a massive shot over the fence in left. The would be round tripper would have been the first of her career. However, somehow, she passed Pronobis on the base path and, as a result, was called out and only credited with a single and two runs batted in.

Fortunately for Terps fans, it didn't matter. KK retired the first two batters in the top of the seventh picking up her ninth strikeout of the game along the way. The string of consecutive batters retired ended at 12 when a Lafayette pinch hitter reached on the Terps third error of the game but Schmeiser got out of this one with no damage ending the game on a fly out to right and securing the complete game 8-2 Terrapins win.

Saturday Game 2 - Wild Turkey

Maryland's rematch with Virginia Tech was another wild affair. The Terps stuck first but again fell behind early and had to dig themselves out of a deep hole.

For the first time in the early season, Maryland played as the visiting team and Juli Strange got the Terps off to a promising start when she led off the contest with a homer to center that gave Maryland a 1-0 lead after half an inning. Hannah Dewey started in the circle for the Terrapins. The sophomore, who pitched so effectively against the Hokies Friday, was quite the opposite on Saturday.

After walking the leadoff hitter it looked as though she might escape undamaged when she retired the next two batters. However, Dewey hit a batter and Kelsey Mericka banged a three run homer to give the Hokies a 3-1 lead after one.

The Terps scratched out another run in the top of the second on a walk, a bunt, and a wild pitch. In the first two games, Maryland had shown indications that they were going to run the bases aggressively. In this instance, it failed to pay off as Lindsey Schmeiser tried to score from second after the ball bounced away from the pitcher on the play at the plate. The Terps came away with just one run and trailed 3-2 after an inning and a half.

Dewey's problems with her control continued in Tech's half of the second inning. Dewey walked the leadoff batter and sandwiched two outs around a Virginia Tech single. She then gave up a two run triple following that with two walks and a hit batter that gave the Hokies their second consecutive three run inning. Coach Deifel brought Mandy Gardner in to relieve Dewey and the senior, pitching for the first time in several years, got the Terps out of the inning.

Maryland closed the gap to one in the top of the third. Pronobis was hit by a pitch to start the inning and Strange followed with a single. After Calta struckout, Schwartz followed with her second home run of the day a three run blast that pulled the Terps within one. Shannon Bustillos laced a double but the Terps stranded her at second.

The Terps pulled even in the fifth putting together three straight one out singles that loaded the bases. After a Lindsey Schmeiser ground out forced Schwartz at home, Mandy Gardner was hit by a pitch and the score was tied. However, the Terps could take no further advantage.

Gardner's pitching fortunes ran afoul of another leadoff walk in the Hokies' fifth that was promptly followed by a two run Hokies homer. By the time the inning ended, Tech had put together their third big inning of the game eventually scoring four to take a 10-6 lead.

Maryland scratched out another run in the top of the sixth. Pronobis reached on an error and was forced at second by Hawvermale. The senior then stole second and came around to score on Schwartz's single. In the bottom half of the inning, Kaitlyn Schmeiser, who had come in in relief of Gardner in the fifth and given up a solo homer, kept the Terps within striking distance by retiring the Hokies in order.

Dewey led off the seventh with a single and an error by Hokies' shortstop Lauren Gaskill put runners on first and third with none out. And the Terps took advantage. Gardner lifted a three run home run to right that knotted the score at 10 all.

After Datil skied to center, Pronobis doubled and Strange and Hawvermale walked to load the bases with one out for the hot hitting Schwartz. However, the junior hit a grounder to short that forced Pronobis at the plate. That left it senior catcher Bustillos but she flied to center and for the second time in the game the Terps left the bases loaded.

Deifel brought Dewey back into the circle for the bottom of the seventh and the sophomore surrendered a leadoff double. She followed that with a walk that ended on a wild pitch putting Tech runners on the corners with none out. Back into the taut and tense situation came the senior Schmeiser. KK picked up a three pitch strikeout but gave up the game winning single and the Terps dropped their second one run heart breaker in as many days to Virginia Tech this time by an 11-10 final.

Sunday Game 1 - Chanticleers day turns Chanti-cloudy

On a sunny 64 degree late Sunday morning, the Maryland Terrapins softball team took the field to face the Costal Carolina Chanticleers in the first game of a doubleheader and the fourth game for the Terps in the Kickin' Chicken Classic.

The Terps got on the board early scoring in the top of the first when Juli Strange led off with a double to the fence in left center, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Lindsey Schmeiser's line drive single to center. Shannon Bustillos forced Schmeiser at second and was caught in a rundown in another bit of overly aggressive baserunning.

Hannah Dewey got the start for Maryland and gave up a bunt single to open the inning but Bustillos tossed out the Chanticleers' Bri Chiusano trying to steal second. Despite hitting a batter, Dewey got out of the inning without any damage and the Terps led 1-0 at the end of one.

Coastal threatened in the third getting runners on first and second with one out and again in the fourth when they had a runner on third with only one out but Dewey tightened things up and got the key outs to preserve the 1-0 lead as Chanticleers' pitcher Kiana Quolas also settled into a nice rhythm and held the Terrapins' offense in check.

The thin ice under Dewey finally cracked in the bottom of the fifth. Sara Rasley led off with a double to the fence in right moved to third on a wild pitch. Dewey then issued her second walk of the day and Rasley scored when Bustillos launched a throw into center field on an attempted steal. The Terps were able to pick a runner off third and a good fielding play by Strange on a sharp liner to third got Dewey out of the inning with the score tied at one.

Maryland's offense came to life a bit in the top of the sixth ignited again by Strange and Schmeiser who put together back to back one out doubles that put the Terps back in the lead. Corey Schwartz struck out but reached first on a passed ball with Schmeiser advancing to third. Schwartz was caught stealing on the next pitch but Bustillos blooped a single to left that scored Schmeiser and the Terrapins had a 3-1 lead headed into the bottom of the sixth.

Dewey, who fought control issues as a freshman but had pitched well through five, got herself in deep trouble in the bottom of the sixth when she walked the bases loaded to start the inning. Terps coach Courtney Deifel elected to stick with the sophomore and her trust proved well founded as Dewey then retired the side on a pop out to shallow right, a called third strike and routine ground out to third.

The Terps went a quiet three up and three down in the top of the seventh and Dewey took to the circle looking to preserve the two run lead. She retired leadoff hitter Taylor Harris on one pitch. Chiusano, who had reached base twice on bunts earlier in the game, failed to do so on her third attempt. Dewey then got Quolas on a grounder to short and Maryland held on for their second win of the young season.

Sunday Game 2 - Terps can crow after DH sweep

Just as they had in the opener, the Terps jumped on top of the Chanticleers in the top of the first in the nightcap. Once again Maryland's first run came from the bat of Lindsey 'Lu' Schmeiser. Lu whacked her first home run of the season - a one out bases empty shot - over the left field fence to stake her sister Kaitlyn to the early 1-0 lead. KK responded by retiring Coastal in order in the bottom half of the inning.

Maryland failed to take advantage of a golden opportunity in the top of the second when Hannah Dewey and Mandy Gardner drew back to back walks to open the inning. Erin Pronobis laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to put runners on second and third with one out. However, the Terps failed to push the run across. The home team immediately made Maryland pay coming back to even the score on a single, a sac bunt, and an RBI double in the bottom of the second.

After several quiet innings, Maryland recaptured the lead in the top of the fifth. Sarah Calta got the Terps started with a leadoff single. She promptly stole second and came around to score on a single by Lu Schmieser. It was the junior's fourth RBI of the day. The lead was short lived, however, as Coastal tied the game with a leadoff homer in the home half of the inning.

The Terps responded in the top of the sixth. Dewey led off the inning with a line drive single to left. Mandy Gardner had a strong at bat to move Dewey into scoring position. After working the count full, the senior fouled off five consecutive pitches before hitting a one hopper to first. Gardner was out unassisted on the play but Dewey moved to second. She then advanced to third on a wild pitch and tagged and scored on Erin Pronobis' liner to left.

The bottom half of the inning held some nervous moments for Terrapins' fans. Kiana Quaolas led off with a single but was forced out at second. When Morgan Noad doubled to the base of fence in center putting runners on second and third with only one out, it looked as though Maryland's inability to turn the double play on the earlier ground ball could come back to haunt them. The Terps brought the infield in and, on the first pitch, KK got a one hop grounder to her sister who got the out at first while the runners held. After a four pitch walk loaded the bases for Coastal, Schmeiser got out of the inning with a strikeout.

In the top of the seventh, the Terps got Sarah Calta to third with two outs but stranded her there and Schmeiser's string of good luck finally frayed in the bottom of the inning. The inning opened when Datil dropped a routine fly to center by Annie Robinson. The Chanticleers moved pinch runner Timi Tooley up on a sacrifice bunt. Tooley advanced another base on a ground out to short and came in to score on a single to center.

The Southern Conference, of which Coastal Carolina is a member, uses the International tie-breaker (ITB) rule for its conference games if they are tied at the end of nine innings. They instituted that rule for the beginning of the eighth today. In ITB, each team starts its at bat with a runner on second base - usually the batter scheduled to bat ninth in the inning.

For the Terps in the top of the eighth, that runner was Corey Schwartz who was immediately sacrificed to third by Shannon Bustillos. Dewey walked to put runners at the corners with one out but thrown out trying to steal second. However, for the second time on the weekend, Mandy Gardner came up with a clutch late inning hit and her single to drove in the go ahead run.

In their half of the eighth, Coastal could not execute the sacrifice bunt and Noad instead hit a soft pop out to Lu Schmeiser at short. They advanced the runner to third on a ground out to second but KK induced a soft come backer from Kelsey Dominik as the Terps completed the sweep.

For teams such as Maryland, February softball involves seemingly endless travel and, after their trip to South Carolina this weekend, the Terrapins will spend next weekend in Florida where they will again play five games in three days as part of the Florida Atlantic University "Strike Out Cancer" Tournament. The Terps are scheduled to take on Providence, Drexel (twice), Tulsa, and the host school FAU.