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Maryland softball takes two of three in Indiana

In the first of my day late and dollar short stories, softball fans get a summary of a successful weekend trip to Indiana. Maryland won their second road series in Big Ten play including Sunday's video game offensive explosion by Terps batters.

Courtesy Andrea Hawvermale

I'll start this long story with an apology and an explanation (and a small excuse) to Maryland softball and its fans, to the men's and women's lacrosse teams and their fans and to those folks who come to Testudo Times looking for me to have written timely stories covering those sports. The explanation of my laxity springs from several sources.

First, I'm not 25 anymore, dammit. Yes, my egotistical self image has that perception but my brain and body react more like the 60 year old man I am. All the driving - to Auburn for gymnastics and to Tampa for the women's basketball Final Four took a greater physical toll than I expected. All the writing (I'm now writing for TerpTalk and TestudoTimes and wrote stories for both gymnastics and basketball for both sites) has weighed more heavily on me intellectually as well. I've also engaged in some excessive socializing here in Tampa.

Finally, the excuse. I have to point a finger at the Westin Tampa Bay Hotel. The WiFi connection on their server is more or less worthless. Web pages with dense graphics take minutes to load, if they load at all, and streaming video is essentially out of the question. My only recourse is to sit in the lobby (or the adjacent Starbucks) and use that connection. It's not easy to write in a hotel lobby. There are no desks and the constant stream of people (some of whom are distractingly dressed because it is Tampa, after all, and there's a small beach on the hotel property) contribute to minimizing my productivity. With my mea culpas written, let's proceed with a story about softball.

Maryland's softball team made their second Big Ten road trip over the April's first weekend and for the second time won the series downing the Indiana Hoosiers in two of three games.

Game 1 - The Shannon Bustillos Show

Friday's game was postponed due to weather so the Terps and Hoosiers made it up in a doubleheader on Saturday. Maryland jumped on top in their first at bat at Andy Mohr Field. Lindsey ‘Lu' Schmeiser opened the inning with an opposite field double off the fence in right. Corey Schwartz drew a walk and both runners advanced on Erin Pronobis' ground out to second. They came around to score when Shannon Bustillos chopped a bouncer past the shortstop.

The Terrapins added to their 2-0 in the top of the third. Pronobis laced a one out double to the fence in left center and Bustillos, who would finish the game 3-4 with 4 RBI, continued her torrid hitting. She drove in Pronobis with a hard ground ball single up the middle taking second on the throw to the plate and moving to third on Kaitlyn ‘KK' Schmeiser's ground out. Bridget Hawvermale's  line drive up the middle scored Bustillos.

The hit parade continued in the top of the fourth with Schwartz's RBI triple off the fence in right center. The Hoosiers finally broke through against KK scratching out an unearned run in the bottom of the fourth.

Bustillos capped her day with a leadoff home run to left in Maryland's fifth. KK, who finished the complete game win with eight strikeouts, gave up a two run homer in the bottom of the inning but retired the side in the sixth closing out the 6-3 win. Schmeiser improved to 16-6 on the season.

Game 2 - Three is not enough

Saturday's second game started even more auspiciously for the Terrapins than the first as they put not two but three runs on the board in their first at bat. Hannah Dewey smacked a one out double to the fence in right center. Schwartz smoked a one hopper off the chest of the third baseman who was charged with an error putting runners on the corners.

Pronobis, on what would be her only hit to stay in the park, drove in Dewey with a single past the first baseman. Bustillos then laced a 3-1 pitch over third for an RBI double and KK brought Schwartz in with a sacrifice fly to right.

Lu opened Maryland's lead to 4-0 with a no doubt about it blast to straightaway center in the top of the second but Indiana bounced back scoring three unearned runs in the bottom of the inning. Pronobis provided some additional breathing room for the Terps in the top of the third with the first of her three solo blasts. This one sailed over the fence in left center for the left fielder's ninth dinger of the season.

Indiana solved the Terps' pitching in the home fourth scoring six times four of which came around on a grand slam. Ahead 9-5, the Hoosiers had a lead for the first time in the series. In the fifth, the teams traded a pair of runs. Both of the Terps' runs came on solo shots the first by Dewey pulled over the fence in right and one batter later Pronobis connected for her second of the game this time going to right center. The Hoosiers picked up their pair of runs abetted by a Maryland error - the Terps fourth of the game.

Trailing 11-7, Maryland had a golden chance to close the gap in their half of the sixth inning but hurt themselves with a baserunning mistake. Skylynne Ellazar, who had gotten the start at short, poked a one out single to left and Lu drew a walk putting two on with one out for Dewey. The Terrapins' right fielder lined a single to right but Schmeiser didn't look up to see Terps' head coach Courtney Deifel hold Ellazar at third. Ellazar was eventually caught in a rundown for the second out.

Schwartz struck out to end the inning. Pronobis' third home run in as many at bats leading off the seventh with a blast to right had little meaning simply closing the game to 11-8. The Terps essentially wasted three Pronobis homers and the Hoosiers evened the series at one game all.

Game 3 - Terps score three touchdowns to take series

For a game in which the Terps would put up 21 runs, Maryland had a tame at bat in the top of the first particularly for this series. They scored just once on an RBI double by Bustillos. Indiana bounced right back taking a two to one lead on a two run homer in the bottom of the first.

The Terps edged back in front in the fourth doing all their damage after two were out starting with Hawvermale's base on balls. She moved to third on Juli Strange's single to right center and scored when Indiana's catcher committed an error trying to throw Strange out at second. Strange then scored on Kylie Datil's infield single.

After Indiana knotted the score in the bottom of the inning, the Terrapins had the first of their "Terrapains" innings in the top of the fifth. Unlike the first two games where the Terps used the long ball as their most potent weapon, doubles by Schwartz and Bustillos were the only two extra base hits Maryland mustered in the inning. When the dust settled, the Terps had exploded for seven runs and led 10-3.

But the Terps weren't going to make things easy on themselves. The Hoosiers solved Schmeiser for the first time over the weekend and hung three runs on the board in the fifth and two more in the sixth to narrow the gap to 10-8.

And then came the top of the seventh. Once again, Maryland's outburst came without benefit of a home run. Datil led off the inning with a single and Lu Schmeiser skied to center. The next 10 Terrapins all reached base over a stretch that featured a hit batter, a walk, five straight hits, another walk and back to back doubles. The string finally ended with a Corey Schwartz ground out but Pronobis singled to pick up her third RBI of the game capping an 11 run seventh inning. Brenna Nation cruised through the bottom of the inning retiring Indiana in order. The 21-8 win improved Maryland's record to 23-16 for the season and 5-4 in B1G play.

Looking ahead

To paraphrase Billy Crystal's SNL character Fernando, it is better to win ugly than to  lose beautifully. And the Terps are winning games. They have more than doubled their win total from the 2014 season. Often, they have been able to overcome errors in fundamental softball but at other times, it has cost them, or certainly potentially cost them wins.

Though they played errorless ball in Sunday's finale, Maryland committed seven errors in the first two games with the Hoosiers. Four of Indiana's 11 runs in the Terps' only loss were unearned. Base running errors left the door open for Ohio State to come back to win a game at Maryland and another such error cost the Terps a potentially big inning in that 11-8 loss.

The Terrapins need to focus on improving these elemental facets of play or they may find themselves unable to overcome them more often than they can rely on their bats to erase them as they have thus far.

They get their first chance to show that improvement at home where they will host the next two series beginning with a three game set Friday when the Illinois Fighting Illini come to College Park. The following weekend, the Penn State Nittany Lions will visit. After Penn State, Maryland will have only one home series remaining.