Maryland softball went 12-40 last season and started this spring 0-8. The Terps' first three games this weekend were clear-cut losses to FIU, Northwestern State and previously winless Florida A&M.
And then, out of absolutely nowhere, Maryland upset No. 1 Florida on Saturday afternoon in Gainseville.
To call the Terps' 4-2 win a stunner would be selling it short. There are solid programs that go years or even decades without nabbing a win of this magnitude. Florida is a perennial powerhouse that won the Women’s College World Series in 2014 and 2015 and the SEC championship in 2016. The Gators hadn’t lost this season before Maryland took them down.
Imagine Rutgers football losing to a mid-major one week and beating Alabama in Bryant-Denney the next. Softball’s a bit different than that, but it’s essentially still the level we’re looking at here.
It’s easy to write this upset off as a fluke, especially in a sport where a dominant pitcher or a big inning at the plate can make all the difference in a seven-inning contest. The Terps scored three of their four runs in the fourth and got 5.1 innings out of senior lefty Hannah Dewey. Florida also left 10 runners on base, three more than Maryland. It takes all of that for an 0-8 team to beat an 8-0 team on the road.
But this is something the Terps have been inching toward for a while. In their third game of last season, they took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth against No. 6 Oregon. Two weeks later, they lost 1-0 to No. 5 Alabama and had the bases loaded in the seventh inning. In their first contest this year, No. 16 Minnesota needed a walk-off to beat them. Saturday’s result is crazier than any of those would have been, but credit the Terps for getting in somewhat similar positions before.
It’s unreasonable to expect Maryland to pull a complete 180 from its 0-8 beginnings. The Terps won’t suddenly post winning records every weekend and consistently hang with the best of the Big Ten. This program is still a ways from where it wants to be; head coach Julie Wright is only in her second season, and we’re a few years from having a Maryland team full of her recruits.
Still, a win like this should be celebrated. The nation’s best teams tend to lose no more than a half-dozen games in a season, with most of those coming to other highly-ranked squads. Upsets like this are few and far between, and for Maryland to be on the positive side is an incredible thing.
The Terps resume action next week in Lafayette, Louisianna, where all five of their games will be against mid-majors. They’ll undoubtedly show up with a fresh injection of confidence, although it remains to be seen if they can be consistent.
No matter what happens for the rest of the season, though, Saturday’s win is a high point for the program. It won’t single-handedly vault the Terps to where they want to be, but it puts them on the map.