Maryland softball got its 2017 season off to a rough start at the Texas Invitational, kicking off Julie Wright’s second season with five straight losses over three days. Against some tough competition in No. 16 Minnesota, Colorado State and Texas, the Terps played two close games, but lost three others by lopsided margins. Freshman Anna Kufta hit two home runs and had four RBI over the tournament in her college debut.
Friday afternoon: Minnesota 3, Maryland 2
Senior Hannah Dewey was the opening day starter for the Terps as she pitched three solid innings and gave up two runs. She was then followed by Ari Jarvis who pitched the remaining 3.2 innings. After falling in a hole, the offense picked up its starter by tying the score in the sixth. Kufta got the rally started with a leadoff double, and Kristina Dillard drove her win with a two-bagger of her own. Madison Martin singled Dillard in two batters later to knot the score at 2-2.
After tying the score in the sixth, the Terps had a great chance to take the lead in the top of the seventh. Skylynne Ellazar put runners in scoring position with a single after a 13-pitch at-bat. The Terps had runners on first and second with one out with Kufta at the plate. She delivered a single up the middle that loaded the bases. Dillard was unable to drive in the go-ahead run as she hit a ground ball to the pitcher who got the force out at home. Juli Strange struck out swinging to end the inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, Minnesota was able to come through with runners in scoring position. Jarvis surrendered a leadoff single, and the runner advanced to second on a passed ball. MaKenna Partain singled to right field to drive in the winning run, robbing the Terps of their chance to start their season with an upset win.
Friday evening: Colorado State 14, Maryland 5
The Terps had a rough start in Game 2 of their doubleheader Friday. They took the field less than hour after their walk-off loss to Minnesota and fell behind right away to Colorado State. Freshman Lauren Graves got the start and had a less-than-ideal debut in the circle.
After giving up a lead-off double, she began to struggle finding the strike zone. The next batter walked on four pitches, three of which were passed balls. The third hitter of the inning walked on a full count to load the bases. CSU’s Lauren Buchanan put Maryland in a huge hole with a grand slam, and the runs poured in after that. The final stat line for Graves was five runs and three walks without recording an out. The Terps were not able to recover despite Kufta’s first career home run.
Saturday afternoon: Colorado State 6, Maryland 3
The Terps’ second matchup against Colorado State was much closer than the first. However, Maryland was still haunted by a disastrous first inning. Hannah Dewey got the start and lasted 1.1 innings, giving up five runs. Jarvis stopped the game from getting out of hand with 4.2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Graves gave up one run in her sole inning pitched.
The Terps nearly came all the way back, but were unable to solve Colorado State’s Larisa Petakoff, who pitched a complete game and gave up no earned runs. The Terps were able to score three unearned runs in the seventh inning to claw their way back into things. Dillard, who reached on an error, was driven in by pinch hitter Brigette Nordberg. Strange scored the second run of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Dewey. Destiney Henderson singled in Nordberg for the final run of the inning.
Saturday night: Texas 10, Maryland 2 (6 innings)
The Longhorns got off to an early lead off of Jarvis as they scored two runs on three hits in the second inning. They also added another three runs in the bottom of the third inning. One of the runs scored due to an error by Kufta at third base, but she bounced back nicely with a two-run homer the next inning. The home run was her second of the season and gave the team some hope heading into the fifth.
The Terps were unable to get that shutdown inning though, as Texas broke the game open with a three-run home run in the fourth. Texas was able to put the run-rule the Terps after an RBI single in the sixth.
Sunday morning: Minnesota 10, Maryland 2
The Terps were finally able to get a lead early in their final game of the tournament. Four hits in the first inning, including an RBI single by Dillard, gave the Terps a 1-0 advantage. After a walk to Martin, the Terps forced a Minnesota pitching change. Maryland put up another run after an error by Minnesota first baseman Sydney Dwyer.
The Gophers didn’t waste any time responding. They managed to load the bases with no outs, then scored score three runs in the inning after two RBI singles and an error, and added another on a fielder’s choice. Minnesota kept chipping away, and took advantage of errors until a three-run home run in the bottom of the third put the game out of reach.
Maryland showed some life, but was unable to capitalize against Minnesota’s bullpen. Carlie Brandt came on in relief for the Gophers and pitched 4.2 scoreless innings.
Some lopsided numbers
Maryland this weekend: 14 runs
Opponents this weekend: 43 runs
Maryland got runners on base, but was unable to put together a big inning this weekend. For example, on Sunday, the Terps had eight hits but were unable to put multiple runs on the board without help from errors and walks.
They didn’t get a ton of runs, but even when they got some, they couldn’t get a shutdown inning. Against Minnesota on Sunday, Maryland got a 2-0 lead in the top half of the first inning, then gave up three runs immediately in the bottom half. They had the same problem against Texas. After a Kufta home run appeared to give them some momentum, the Terps gave up a big home run in the next half inning. However, this was only one series, and it came against programs that are clearly more developed than Maryland.
State of the circle
The Terps have fallen behind early in games due to performances by the starters. The team’s offense performed well in spots, but the pitchers put them in holes that were too big to get out of on three occasions this weekend. They need to find a replacement for former ace Brenna Nation, who graduated last spring. Meanwhile, the bullpen pitched well. Jarvis kept Maryland in games on Friday and Saturday, and could be a solid and versatile reliever for the Terps this season.
The Terps play FIU, Northeastern State, Florida A&M and Florida next weekend at the Aquafina Invitational in Gainesville, Florida.