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3 storylines to follow for Maryland softball’s 2017 season

The Terps begin play Friday in Texas.

Sammi Silber/Testudo Times

The Maryland softball team starts its season this weekend with a five-game slate at the Texas Invitational. The Terps are hoping to improve off of a 12-40 record last year, and that work starts Friday at 12:30 against No. 16 Minnesota. As the Terps try to be competitive in the Big Ten this season, here are three main storylines to follow.

Need to build toward conference play

Maryland finished Big Ten play with a 4-19 record in 2016. After starting their season with six tournaments, the Terps open conference play against Ohio State on March 24. If the Terps can take care of business at home, it is important they have a strong showing in a six-game road trip against Michigan State and Northwestern. While Northwestern is a tough opponent, Michigan State finished in the bottom half of the Big Ten last year.

If the Terps are able to get off to a good start and have some success on the road early, it could go a long way toward possibly climbing up from the bottom half of the conference.

Key hitters need to replicate seasons

The Terps’ top two returning offensive players are senior Kristina Dillard and junior Skylynne Ellazar. They’ll need to at least replicate their numbers from last season.

Ellazar led the team with a .399 batting average and a .458 on-base percentage. Dillard, in her first season with the Terps after transferring from Louisville, was second on the team in hits and tied for the team lead in RBI with 30. Sarah Calta also had a nice junior season, hitting .331 before tearing her ACL. But after Dillard, Ellazar and Calta, no other Terp batted above .300. The Terps are going to need another bat to step up for the 2017 season.

Solidifying the rotation

Arguably the biggest issue for the Terps last season was their pitching rotation. The team had a combined ERA of 7.15, while their opponents had a 2.98 ERA against them. The huge difference in pitching put them in holes and led to blowout losses. With Brenna Nation gone, the team will need pitchers Madison Martin, Hannah Dewey, Ari Jarvis and Sami Main to improve.