Many teams like to view conference play as the start of a new season, in which previous accomplishments and pitfalls are wiped away. Unfortunately for Maryland softball, this new season began in the same negative fashion as the previous one ended. The Terps were swept by Ohio State in Columbus. Here’s what you need to know:
This game was televised on the Big Ten Network, which allowed a large regional audience to watch the Terps lay an egg. Hannah Dewey started the game in the circle, but could only throw balls or hittable strikes. She was touched up for two runs in the first and three in the second, and didn’t record an out in the second inning. She walked 7 of the 12 batters she faced and also allowed two hits. The Buckeyes added four runs off Brenna Nation in the third and three off Ari Jarvis in the fourth. It was the freshman’s first career appearance, and she retired two of the first three hitters she faced before allowing a double and a homer.
Ohio State’s Alex Bayne apparently got her hands on that "orbiter" bat from Backyard Baseball that only hits homers to the moon. The junior drilled a foul ball over the fence against Dewey in the first, but "settled" for a line-drive RBI double off the fence in right center. She walked and scored in the second inning, then socked homers in her last two at-bats. She finished the day 3 for 3 with 2 dingers, 7 runs batted in and 4 runs scored.
Maryland’s two runs came on a Sarah Calta RBI triple in the third and a Destiney Henderson RBI single in the fourth, but those were the only hits the Terps could muster against Shelby Hursh. The junior hurled a complete game, and even though she walked seven Terps, it was an easy victory.
Alex Bayne (again) took Madison Martin deep in the bottom of the first inning to give Ohio State a 2-0 lead with no outs. It was Bayne’s third homer in as many at-bats, and another blowout appeared eminent. However, Martin settled in and didn’t allow a run in the next five innings. In the top of the fifth, Maryland finally got to Morgan Ray. Corey Schwartz led the frame off with her first homer of the season (she hit 15 last year), and Dewey tied the score at 2-2 with a two-out RBI single. Lena Springer got the Buckeyes out of the fifth and pitched a perfect sixth, only to give way to Hursh for the seventh. She retired Henderson and Jordan Aughinbaugh, but Skylynne Ellazar singled and Calta tripled to give Maryland the lead.
Then came the heartbreak. Martin walked the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the seventh, and after a sacrifice bunt moved the tying run into scoring position, Maddy McIntyre rendered that irrelevant by drilling a walk-off, two-run homer to center field. All the Terps could do was trudge off the field as they watched Ohio State celebrate at home plate.
"It was definitely hearbreaking," Calta said. "But I think [playing such a competitive game] was a positive at the same time."
It was Brenna Nation’s turn to get rocked early and often. Buckeye first baseman Erika Leonard started things off with a three-run homer to the opposite field in the bottom of the first. Corey Schwartz put the Terps on the board with an RBI single in the third, but Ohio State responded with eight runs in the bottom of the frame. Catcher Cammi Prantl took Nation deep to left, which stretched the lead to 5-1. Hannah Dewey came in shortly thereafter, but the two juniors combined to surrender five hits and five walks. When it was all over, the Terps trailed 11-1.
Sarah Calta knocked in a run with a fourth-inning single, capping off a 3-for-3 outing. She went 6-for-9 in the series with two triples and three RBIs. Lindsey Schmeiser tacked on two more runs with a bases-loaded single. But it wasn’t enough to avoid an eventual run-rule loss. Leonard closed the deal with one more homer off Madison Martin in the fifth. It was the second straight game to end with an Ohio State homer.
Buckeye bomb squad
Ohio State knocked seven home runs in a three-game series. That’s a lot. Right fielder Alex Bayne hit three, first baseman Erika Leonard hit two, and shortstop Maddie McIntyre and catcher Cammi Prantl each joined the party. Bayne now has 11 homers in 25 games. Maryland’s entire team has 13 in 30 games.
"It’s frustrating to watch your pitchers do the same thing over and over," head coach Julie Wright said. "We need to make a change there."
Speaking of homers………
Th-th-that’s Lindsey Schmeiser’s music!
She of a program-best 31 career long balls was back at shortstop for the Terps in Columbus. Julie Wright eased her back in on Friday by slotting her at the flex, meaning she didn’t hit. On Saturday, she was moved to fifth in the order and went 1 for 2 with a walk. Schmeiser hit cleanup on Sunday, going 1 for 2 with a two-run single.
TWO RBI SINGLE LINDSEY SCHMEISER! Lu darts one up the middle to score two, make it 11-4 Ohio State! https://t.co/wHZz7ZczDr— Maryland Softball (@TerpsSoftball) March 27, 2016
The other member of Maryland’s veteran double-play combo, Corey Schwartz, finally knocked her first home run of the year on Saturday. She hit 15 last season. The senior second baseman hasn’t exactly been a disappointment on offense, but her slugging percentage has dropped from a team-high .641 in 2015 to just .404 this spring.
"We’ve been missing power in our lineup, and Corey has that," Wright said, stressing that her infield captain needs to keep producing like she did this weekend.
If Schmeiser and Schwartz can both stay healthy and produce, Maryland’s offense becomes that much more respectable. Skylynne Ellazar, Hannah Dewey and Kristina Dillard have been rock-solid all season, and the rest of the starters (such as Calta this weekend) have had their moments. And yet, the Terps will need so much more from their offense going forward, because the pitching staff has been rather discouraging.
State of the circle
It’s not strong. Dewey’s ERA has climbed to 8.76. Brenna Nation (2-13, 7.82 ERA) hasn’t been much better. Madison Martin (1-3, 2.96 ERA) had one of her stronger performances on Saturday, so it won’t be a shocker if she starts to eat up more innings than her fellow juniors going forward. Ari Jarvis made her college debut on Friday, and although she ran into the Bayne buzz saw, the freshman held her own for the most part. However, she and Sami Main (who didn’t sniff the field this weekend) probably won’t see high-leverage innings for a long while.
The 7-23 (0-3 Big Ten) Terps host No. 23 Nebraska this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Don’t be surprised if you see a more in-depth preview for this series pop up on the site later this week.
Senior shortstop Lindsey Schmeiser, on returning to action: "Getting back in the box, all you’re thinking about is getting your timing back. I actually felt pretty comfortable all weekend."