Maryland's softball team traveled to East Lansing, MI looking to right the ship against the Michigan State Spartans in their final Big Ten regular season season series. After dropping a midweek doubleheader to Rutgers and getting swept by Michigan - the conference's best squad - the Terps were looking to right the ship against the league's worst team. The weekend was a mixed bag.
Friday - Feeling faint
Maryland softball's late season swoon continued Friday afternoon in the first of a three game series at Michigan State. The Terps entered the game winless since sweeping Penn State and saw their five game losing streak extend to six in a 4-3 loss to the conference cellar dwellers.
After Maryland squandered a pair of walks in the top of the first, the home standing Spartans jumped on Terrapins starter Kaitlyn ‘KK' Schmeiser in the bottom of the inning taking advantage of a leadoff walk. Left fielder Kassidy Kujawa doubled and lofted a sacrifice fly to center. Schmeiser got out of the inning with no further damage.
Maryland victimized themselves with some poor baserunning in the bottom of the second. KK led off with a single but made a poor decision trying to go to third on Juli Strange's single to the right side and was thrown out. Strange took second but rather than having two on with none out, the Terps failed to push the run across in the one on one out situation.
Schmeiser sailed through the second but gave up two more in the third giving up three singles and a walk. Facing a 3-0 deficit, the Terps knotted the score in the top of the fourth.
Catcher Shannon Bustillos led off the inning with a home run to left. The blast was her 10th of the season and moved her into first place on the all-time list with 28. The RBI was the 148th of her career tying her for first all-time with 2007 graduate Lindsay Klein.
KK and Strange followed with back to back doubles to pull the Terps within one. After Mandy Gardner struck out, Kylie Datil singled to left. Strange wisely held at third but Datil advanced to second on the throw home. Lindsay Schmeiser lifted a sacrifice fly to right and Maryland was even at three.
Michigan State registered the game winner in the fifth inning. Lea Forrester led off the frame with a triple and scored on Kujawa's flyout to center. The Terps managed only one base runner in their last two at bats - a leadoff walk to Lindsey Schmeiser to start the seventh but they went quietly after that. The win was only the third in conference play for the Spartans and with the loss Maryland drops to 26-25 on the season and 8-13 in B1G play.
Saturday - Coming from ahead
Throughout the season, Maryland's softball squad has built two out rallies with rather remarkable consistency and they demonstrated that trait again in the first inning of Saturday's contest with Michigan State. Lindsey 'Lu' Schmeiser led off the game with a single but was wiped out when Hannah Dewey grounded into a double play. No matter.
Corey Schwartz used the long ball to get the Terps on the board smashing her team leading 14th big fly of the season. Erin Pronobis regained some of her early season form when she was hit by a pitch. Shannon Bustillos followed by drawing a base on balls. A combination of an illegal pitch and a stolen base moved both runners into scoring position for Kaitlyn 'KK' Schmeiser and the senior delivered them both with a double to left center. Juli singled to drive in KK and Maryland had a quick 4-0 lead.
Unfortunately for the Terrapins, Hannah Dewey, the beneficiary of the early outburst, had trouble finding the plate and put three Spartans on base without benefit of a hit. She hit the lead off batter and walked a pair around a ground out to third. With the bases loaded and two out, Spartans' third baseman Sarah Gutknecht smacked a grand slam and with only one hit, the home team had knotted the score at four all.
Brenna Nation started the second for Maryland and gave the Terps two innings of scoreless relief which was long enough for the Terrapins to again poke their heads in front. Schwartz led off the inning with a single down the right field line after a 10 pitch at bat. Pronobis laid down a sacrifice bunt and Bustillos drew her second walk of the day. Continuing the trend of seconds, KK lashed her second double of the game and picked up her third RBI inthe process. Though Strange and Kylie Datil struck out to end the inning the Terps now led 5-4.
Nation held the lead for an inning when escaped a bases loaded two out jam in the bottom of the third but Kassidy Kujawa blasted a one out home run in the Spartans' fourth to again tie the score. When she followed that by walking Stephanie Sanders, manager Courtney Scott-Deifel brought Jaymi Bautista-Geiger into the circle. The senior from Florida kept Michigan State's bats silent for her inning and two thirds of work.
KK led off the top of the seventh with her third double of the afternoon. One batter later, Mandy Gardner got the big hit - a double to center that scored Skylynne Ellazar who had come in to run for Schmeiser. KK, who had entered the circle in the sixth to relieve Bautista-Geiger, retired MSU in order in the seventh after putting their lead off hitter on base with a hit by pitch.
Schmeiser was credited with the win - her 19th of the season and Maryland's losing streak ended at six. The win assures the Terps of no worse than a .500 finish to the season as they improve to 27-25 and pick up their ninth win in conference play against 13 losses.
Sunday - And I'll leave you base, and you on base, and you...
No one can fairly say that Maryland's softball team didn't have ample opportunities to grab the series win at Michigan State Sunday. One can fairly say that the squad squandered most of those chances and it started in their initial at bat.
While they managed only one hit in the inning, they loaded the bases, albeit with two outs, on a hit by pitch (Erin Pronobis, of course), a single and a walk. But failed to score. They put two runners on - also via walks - in the second but again stranded both.
Michigan State capitalized on the Terrapins' early futility by stinging together enough hits, including a pair of singles with two out, to put up three runs in the bottom of the second inning.
The Terps got one back in the third. Corey Schwartz led off the inning with a base on balls and Shannon Bustillos doubled. Starting pitcher Kaitlyn Schmeiser walked to load the bases and Schwartz scored Hannah Dewey's fly ball to right. Mandy Gardner reached when she was hit by a pitch and for the second time in the inning and the third in the game, Maryland had the bases loaded. When Juli Strange and Bridget Hawvermale struck out, the Terps had left eight runners on base in their first three at bats.
The Spartans extended their lead to five one on a two run homer in their half of the third before Bustillos made a bit of history in Maryland's fourth when she smacked a three tun homer to left center. Friday afternoon the senior catcher became Maryland's all-time home run leader. The three RBI on the blast not only pulled the Terps within one at 5-4 but also gave Bustillos 151 for her career also the most in Terrapins softball history.
Unfortunately, that would prove to be the last hurrah for Maryland. Michigan State put up another pair of runs in the bottom of the inning and Kristina Zalewski, who came on to pitch the final three innings, effectively shut the Terps down. She allowed only two singles and a walk over the final three innings.
In their first B1G season, and their first season under Courtney Scott-Deifel, Maryland finished 9-14 in conference play and tied with Penn State for eighth place in the league. By virtue of their regular season sweep of the Nittany Lions, the Terps will be the eighth seed and the nominal home team when the teams meet Thursday afternoon in the first round of the single elimination B1G Tournament on the campus of Ohio State.