The Penn State Nittany Lions traveled to College Park for a three game series with the Maryland Terrapins that would be as important as any such series could be for teams bound to finish in the middle of the Big Ten standings. Penn State came into the series after sweeping a pair of games from Ohio State while Maryland was looking to bounce back from being swept by Illinois.
Friday - Coming from behind, ahead and behind
Penn State jumped on top early when right fielder Mollie Sorenson topped a one out grounder down the third base line and just beat the throw from Terps' third baseman Juli Strange. After moving to second on a wild pitch she came around to score on a two out double that just got over the head of left fielder Erin Pronobis. Terps starter Kaitlyn 'KK' Schmeiser got out of the inning with no additional damage.
Schmeiser's younger sister Lindsey who entered the game with a 19 game hitting streak immediately extended it to 20 when she led off the bottom of the first with a line drive single to left. She stole second but after Strange walked, the Terps stranded both runners.
Maryland got the equalizer in the second, however, with KK helping her own cause with a lead off double to center.She moved up a base on Bridget Hawvermale's grounder to the right side and, after Strange walked, scored on Kylie Datil's double to center. The Terps failed to capitalize and further and again stranded a pair of runners.
The Terrapins got their nose in front in their next at bat. They loaded the bases on two singles and Corey Schwartz's lead off walk. Schwartz came across on Hawvermale's sacrifice fly to left to put the Terps up 2-1 after three innings again stranding two runners. The lead was short lived, however, as the visitors scored twice in the top of the fourth.
The bottom of the fourth proved to be the decisive frame when the Terps exploded for five runs. The inning started with Datil drawing a lead off walk. The hot hitting Lu Schmeiser followed with a no doubt about it blast over the fence in straight away left and the Terps were again in front 4-3.
But the fun was just beginning. After a Penn State pitching change, Hannah Dewey dropped a soft liner into shallow center for her only hit of the day. Schwartz was hit by a pitch and Pronobis laced a single to left scoring Emma Mires, who had come in to run for Dewey. Pronobis took second on the throw and both runners scored on a double off the fence in left center off the bat of catcher Shannon Bustillos. The inning ended with Maryland ahead 7-3.
The Terps added an insurance run in the home half of the fifth on an RBI single by Schwartz driving in Lu who had drawn a one out walk. The Nittany Lions showed some fight scoring three times in the top of the seventh off Dewey, who had come on in relief of KK in the fifth. KK returned to the circle to get the final out on a pop up to Dewey at first securing the 8-6 win.
Saturday - The comeback kids strike again
Maryland's Saturday game could not have gotten off to a much more inauspicious start. Like their men's lacrosse counterparts who fell behind 4-0 in the first quarter of their game at Ohio State, the Terrapins softball squad also trailed 4-0 after Penn State's first at bat courtesy of a grand slam home run by Nittany Lions catcher Alyssa VanDerveer.
Leading off the bottom of the first, Lindsey "Lu" Schmeiser ended any question about extending her Maryland record 20 game hitting streak to 21 with a home run to straight away center. As the men's lacrosse team had done, the Terps continued chipping away at Penn State's lead when they scored twice in the bottom of the second.
The inning started with a one out walk to Bridget Hawvermale. The senior came around to score on a strange triple. Strange in that the batter was Terps third baseman Juli Strange but also strange in that it came about as a result of a check swing excuse me bloop down the right field line that rolled all the way to the fence. Strange then scored on Kylie Dati's single to left center.
Maryland got even in the fourth on a nothing Strange about this one blast to center by the Terps' third baseman. But the Nittany Lions responded immediately recapturing the lead with a single run in the top of the fifth and adding to that with another singleton in the seventh.
Down to their last at bat and trailing 6-4, the Terps found a way to rally as they had on several occasions earlier in the season. The inning started with every pitcher's worst enemy, a lead off walk. Of course when the hitter is Lu Schmeiser, hurler's tend to approach with caution.
Hannah Dewey singled to short right putting runners on first and second. WIth no one out, Maryland coach Courtney Scott-Deifel opted fo ask Corey Schwartz to bunt. The Terps' second baseman executed the perfect sacrifice bunt advancing the runners to second and third. Lu scored on Erin Pronobis' sacrifice fly to left pulling the Terps within one at 6-5 but also leaving them down to their last out.
This situation made no difference to Maryland catcher Shannon "Boom Boom" Bustillos. The senior sen tthe first pitch she saw from Nittany Lions' reliever Marlaina Laubach soaring over the left field fence. Just as the lacrosse team completed their comeback late in the game the softball squad took the game to the wire before securing the victory.
The walk off homer - Maryland's sixth walk off win of the season - gave the Terrapins their second straight win, assured them of a series win and improved their record to 25-19 overall and 7-7 in conference play.
From the outset, Sunday's game featured two firsts for the weekend series. It was the first game in which PennState failed to score in their first at bat. It was also the first of the three games in which Lindsey ':Lu" Schmeiser failed to get a hit in her first at bat.
Hannah Dewey started in the circle for the Terrapins and though Penn State threatened in the second and third Dewey got solid support from her defense and kept the Nittany Lions off the board early. The Terps went down meekly in their first two at bats getting only a one out single in the first by Dewey. However, Maryland broke through against Penn State starter Macy Jones putting up three runs in the third.
Juli Strange lifted a wind blown pop fly to right that Nittany Lions right fielder Alicia Walker dropped allowing Strange to reach on a two base error. Jones retired Kylie Datil on a line drive right at the left fielder and got Lu on a come backer. However, she walked Dewey and Core Schwartz followed with a double down the right field line driving in two. Erin Pronobis lined the first pitch she saw into center for an RBI single and Maryland had a 3-0 lead.
The Terps extended the lead to five in the bottom of the fourth again doing all their damage after two were out. Strange started the rally with a double off the fence in right center. Datil followed with another double over Walker's head easily driving in Strange. Datil stole third and came in to score as Lu extended her hitting streak to 22 games smacking a line drive RBI single through the hole between first and second. The Terps went on to load the bases but the inning ended when Pronobis skied to left.
The Nittany Lions squandered a golden opportunity in top of the fifth. Reina Furuya led off the frame with a single to center and Lexi Knief followed with a double ove Pronobis' head in left. After Dewey retired Mollie Sorenson on a come backer to the mound, Shelby Miller topped a ball down the third base line for an infield single to load the bases with one out. Dewey buckled down and struck out Jones before retiring Saturday's grand slam swatter Alyssa VanDerveer on a routine fly ball to right.
Dewey, who had been living on the edge for the first five innings finally cracked in the Penn State sixth. She issued a pair of walks around a pair of fly ball outs. With two outs, Knief laced a ground ball just to the third base side of second that caromed off the glove of a diving Lindsey Schmeiser that ended up as a two RBI double. Sorenson singled off Dewey's glove putting runners on the corners and Knief scored on an error by Schwartz. Dewey finally got out of the inning by retiring Jones fly ball down the left field line with Pronobis making a nice running catch. But the Nittany Lions were now very much in the game trailing 5-3 at the end of five and a half.
The Terps went down in order in the home sixth and Deifel brought in KK Schmeiser to try and close out the game. The senior retired VanDerVeer and Erin Pond on pops to second before sending Mia Monopoli directly to jail without passing go striking her out to close out the 5-3 win and complete a Maryland sweep.
The Terps have a doubleheader at Rutgers on Tuesday before they close their home season against Big Ten powerhouse Michigan on the weekend.