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Maryland softball drops pair to Ohio State

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After a remarkable comeback Friday night to grab the series opener against Ohio State, Maryland was one out away from winning their second consecutive Big Ten softball series. And then...

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The 2015 edition of Maryland softball under first year head Courtney Deifel is much improved from their 2014 season. But, the team has also lived on the edge for much of their success. Four of the team's first 33 games went to extra innings and Maryland won them all including one in which they scored three runs in the seventh just to send the game to extra innings. The Terps had also won three other games in their final at bat.

So, one might say that on several occasions, the Terrapins snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. After Ohio State routed Maryland in the first game of  Sunday's doubleheader, in the second game, the Terps managed the opposite, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and losing their first extra inning game in the process.

First game - On the short end of a run rule

In most ways, the first game of Sunday's doubleheader is simply best forgotten. The game was a perfect storm of lackluster play in every aspect - pitching, defense, and lack of timely hitting.

The Buckeyes jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first on Maddie McIntyre's two run homer. However, the Terps responded immediately in the home half of the inning. When Ohio State gave Maryland an extra out courtesy of an error by first baseman Ashley Goodwin on Erin Pronobis' grounder, catcher Shannon Bustillos made the Buckeyes pay by blasting a three run homer to straight away center field.

The lead was short lived as the Buckeyes came back to score six in the top of the second. After the first two batters reached on singles, starting pitcher Hannah Dewey appeared on the verge of getting out of the inning when Keelia Nester lined out to Julie Strange who appeared to have doubled Cassidy Clough off second but, in a somewhat controversial decision, she was ruled safe.

Caitlin Conrad smacked a hard line drive to short but Kylie Datil handled it cleanly for the second out. Unfortunately for Terps fans, Strange failed to do the same on Kirstie Feherenbach's looper up the third base line and the error loaded the bases. Turning  the tables, the Buckeyes took advantage. The extra out Maryland gave them opened the floodgates for six unearned runs.

The Terps scratched out a run in the third on Kaitlin Schmeiser's infield single but more Terrapins' fielding woes allowed the Buckeye's to put six additional unearned runs on the board in the top of the fourth. Trailing 14-4, Maryland posted two more runs in the fourth. However, Ohio State added four more, including a 13th unearned run in the top of the fifth that put Maryland in the position of needing to score five runs in the bottom of the inning simply to avoid the run rule loss.

In an inning that was emblematic of Maryland's performance, the Terrapins loaded the bases with two out but Pronobis grounded out to second to end the inning stranding three. For the game, Maryland left 10 runners on base all coming in the last four innings. Although the official scorer charged them with only three errors, the Terps contributed to their demise with several other fielding lapses that played a role in the 18-6  loss.

Second game - One in the field and two on the bases

The second game could not have started much better for Maryland than it did. Kaitlyn 'KK' Schmeiser returned to the circle and retired Ohio State in order in an easy top of the first. Her younger sister Lindsey opened the Terrapins first by lashing a double to the fence in left center extending her hitting streak to 13 games. She came around to score on Erin Pronobis' three run homer toward the scoreboard in right center.

Although Maryland would put two on with one out in the third but fail to score, it didn't lok as though it would be of great importance. KK, pitching like the dominant hurler she can be, was efficiently mowing down the Buckeyes and keeping her pitch count to a minimum.

KK retired the first 11 batters before giving up Cammi Prantl's two out looping line drive single to center. Miscommunication between Lindsey Schmeiser in right and Juli Strange Corey Schwartz (correction) at second turned Maddie McIntyre's catchable bloop to right into an RBI single that would ultimately prove costly. Strange appeared to run off the ball and Schmeiser, playing deep because of McIntyre's power, made a diving luge that came up just short. Prantl running on contact with two outs came all the way around to score from first as the ball squirted out of Schmeiser's glove.

Maryland victimized themselves in the bottom of the fifth with two base running errors that kept  the Terps off the board. The loss of those runs would prove very costly. Hannah Dewey led off the inning with a walk. She appeared to have stolen second base but was called out for leaving early. The next two Terrapins batters, Corey Schwartz and Pronobis reached on a single and an error. Had Dewey been on base, she would have advanced to second or third on the line drive single she would have scored on the error and the Terps would still have had a threat with none out.

Schwartz was on third as a result of  Prantl's two base error in left when Shannon Bustillos lifted a fly to right center and Caitlyn Conrad made a diving catch. Schwartz, who would have scored easily had she tagged, left the bag early and was called out for the final out of an inning in which Maryland had the chance to add one or two runs.

The failures came back to haunt the Terps in the top of the seventh. With one out, Schmeiser gave up her only walk of the day to Taylor Watkins. Jayla Saibene made solid contact driving Pronobis to the warning track to make the catch. Catcher Erika Leonard made even more solid contact sending a no doubt about it blast over the fence in left center to tie the score at three.

The Terps got a one out double from Dewey in the bottom of the seventh but eventually stranded two runners - their seventh and eighth of the day sending the game to extra innings.

Ohio State exploded for six runs in the top of the eighth with five coming on home runs by McIntyre and Leonard. The Terps managed two runs in the bottom of the eighth and had the bases loaded with one out but failed to push any additional runs across and the Buckeyes secured the 9-5 come from behind win.

The loss drops Maryland to 21-15 overall and 3-3 in Big Ten play. Maryland travels to Indiana for a three game series with the Hoosiers before hosting Illinois and Penn State on back to back weekends.