Maryland softball played one of its best series of the season against No. 18 Michigan. Not only did the Terps upset the Wolverines Saturday, but they also played three close games. Maryland relied heavily on Madison Martin and Hannah Dewey in the circle. The two pitched every inning for the Terps and held one of the top lineups in the Big Ten to 10 just runs over the weekend.
Friday evening: Michigan 5, Maryland 1
In the first game of the series, Madison Martin faced Megan Betsa, who is one of the best pitchers in the country as she entered the game with a 1.33 ERA. Martin settled in after allowing a run in the first inning, when she hit a batter with the bases loaded. Martin managed to avoid further damage that inning and pitched her fifth complete game of the season.
Betsa struck out the first two batters of the game, but then Anna Kufta stunned the Wolverines as she tied the score on a deep home run to left, her fifth on the season. The home run was the only hit off Betsa as she managed to keep the Terps off the base paths. Not only did Maryland fail to record a hit after Kufta in the first, Betsa struck out 14 batters.
Maryland was unable to get anything going, and could not recover after Faith Canfield’s RBI single in the second or Amanda Vargas’ third home run of the season in the sixth.
Saturday afternoon: Maryland 2, Michigan 1
Maryland started the game with tremendous energy against starter Tera Blanco, another talented Michigan pitcher with a record of 14-2 and a 2.08 ERA. The Terps stuck to their game plan and attacked fastballs early in the count. Juli Strange started the game by driving the first pitch to left field for a double, and Kufta drove her in with a single to right.
Meanwhile, Wright received another great performance from her starter. Dewey held Michigan scoreless through six innings and managed to keep the ball in the infield recording 11 groundouts. The game was locked in a pitching duel after the first inning as Dewey and Blanco began to match scoreless innings.
No more runs crossed the plate until the sixth inning, when Strange drove a deep fly ball to center that just got over Kelly Christner’s outstretched glove. The insurance run from Strange’s second homer of the year proved to be crucial, as Dewey finally showed signs of fatigue in the seventh. Michigan picked up a run after Richardson hit a RBI double to left. Wright decided to bring in her ace. Martin forced a short flyball to center that dropped right in front of Destiney Henderson’s glove, but Henderson forced Richardson to hesitate, which caused her to be thrown out at home.
“Henderson did it textbook,” Wright said, “exactly the way we teach it.”
The play kept the tying run from scoring before Martin got the final batter to ground out to third.
Sunday afternoon: Michigan 4, Maryland 3
The rubber match of the series was another evenly pitched game between Friday’s starters, Martin and Betsa. Martin again allowed a run in the first, but did not allow another until the fifth inning. Strange tied the score with her second homer of the series in the fourth. Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth, the Maryland bats finally put a rally together. Sarah Calta gave the Terps the lead when she hit a two-run triple to right field.
Dewey relieved Martin in the fifth with runners on first and second. She got out of the inning and pitched a scoreless sixth before struggling in the seventh. Michigan tied the score after Dewey walked the bases loaded and a Christner’s single brought home the tying run. The Wolverines took the lead for good when Richardson hit a deep sacrifice fly to right field. The Terps had two runners reach in the seventh, but neither came around to score.
Weekend of milestones for the Terps
The largest crowd for a Maryland home game was recorded Saturday, as 1,015 fans were in attendance when the Terps upset Michigan. The previous high of 973 was recorded last season against Nebraska.
“Without them today, I don’t know if we win that game,” Wright said Saturday.
The win also marked Wright’s 200th career victory as a head coach.
Terps making plays in the field
Entering the series the game plan was for pitchers was to keep the ball down, according to Wright. The approach led to many ground balls and the defense stepped up. Maryland has had defensive issues this season, but the Terps only made three errors all weekend that lead to a single unearned run.
The Terps made some highlight plays too as Amanda Brashear had a diving catch in center and Kristina Dillard threw out her fourteenth runner of the season.
Meanwhile, Wright had nothing but praise for Kufta, who played slick defense at short all weekend. “That’s a catcher playing shortstop, she sacrificed everything for this team.”
Maryland (9-29-1, 2-10 Big Ten) travels to play a doubleheader against Rutgers (11-29, 2-10 Big Ten) Wednesday. The upset over Michigan keeps Maryland in the hunt for the Big Ten Tournament, where the top 12 teams get in. Rutgers really struggles in the circle, with a 9.54 ERA against Big Ten opponents. Maryland bats could have a nice bounce back after facing a tough Michigan pitching staff. Next weekend, the Terps continue their road trip and play Indiana (19-24, 5-9 Big Ten).