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Maryland softball struggles offensively, finishes 1-4 in Maryland Invitational

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Maryland’s hitting was the leading issue for the team this weekend.

julie wright maryland softball Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

Maryland softball was finally back playing in College Park, as the Terps hosted the Maryland Invitational this weekend. The team struggled mightily offensively, and ultimately finished 1-4 in the tournament.

The Terps started the weekend on a four-game losing streak before winning their final contest, moving to 7-17 on the season.

Thursday: Utah 7, Maryland 1

In a game that was actually a lot closer than the score suggests, Ryan Denhart was back on the mound again for the Terps, this time going another six innings. It was her third six-plus inning game outing in her last four starts.

“For her, she’s just starting to get her legs under her more, getting stronger, and that’s a good sign as the season goes on,” head coach Julie Wright said when asked about Denhart’s increased workload.

It was a slow day for the Maryland offense, as there were opportunities here and there for the Terps to bring runners home, but simply couldn’t get the hits when they needed them. Anna Kufta provided the only offense of the game for Maryland, hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning to make it 2-1.

The turning point came in the top of the seventh, when Maryland still only trailed 2-1, but completely fell apart defensively. After a double followed by an error led to the bases being loaded, Utah went back-back with a two-run double and an error-assisted inside-the-park home run and suddenly it was 7-1.

Had a few things gone differently in the seventh inning, it could have been a totally different game, but alas, mistakes happened and the game was lost.

Friday game one: Miami (OH) 2, Maryland 0

The pitching for Maryland again was excellent, as Sydney Golden pitched all seven innings and only allowed two runs (one earned) on one hit.

But the offense was again stagnant, as the Terps only managed three hits and never even got a runner to third base. The only semblances of offense came on a Hannah Eslick double, and singles from Kassidy Cross and Skylynne Ellazar.

Defensively, Maryland had one of its sloppiest games of the year, committing four errors, one of which led to a run being scored. However, it was still primarily the offense that held Maryland back in this game, resulting in another frustrating loss.

Friday game two: Jacksonville 2, Maryland 0

Although the score was the same as Maryland’s ugly loss to Miami, the Terps’ 2-0 loss to Jacksonville was a totally different game, and one that Maryland should have won.

Despite being shut out, the Terps’ offense was much more active than the previous contests, collecting nine hits over the course of the game. The issue wasn’t getting the runners on base, but getting them across home, as Maryland left 10 runners on base without scoring a single run.

The trend of Maryland pitchers throwing entire games continued, as Denhart matched Golden’s previous game with a full seven innings. It was one of Denhart’s strongest games of the year, as the freshman totaled nine strikeouts against the Jacksonville hitters.

Errors were again a problem for the Terps, as they committed three more, one of which led to both of Jacksonville’s runs being scored.

Ultimately, Maryland finished the second day of the tournament without a win or a run to show for themselves, as the lagging offense and constant errors were the leading problems causing the losses.

Saturday game one: Utah 6, Maryland 2

Offensive struggles continued into Saturday for the Terps, as they finally got a few runs across, but not enough to match Utah’s offense.

Utah’s Katie Donavon made her second start of the weekend against the Terps, again pitching well by throwing six innings and racking up 10 strikeouts. Maryland’s offense managed some success at the plate this game, with five hits and two runs, but it wasn’t enough to get them past Utah’s hitters. Bridgette Nordberg had the only RBI for the team, as the other run was unearned on an error.

The Golden-Denhart rotation continued as well, this game going to Golden, who pitched 6.0 innings before being replaced by Denhart. It wasn’t Golden’s best performance, as she allowed nine hits and five earned runs.

Saturday game two: Maryland 4, Yale 2

Maryland finally got out of its losing ways in its home tournament, beating 1-10 Yale by a pair of runs.

It was Denhart that got the nod in the final game of the weekend, unsurprisingly at this point, pitching seven innings, allowing four hits and only one earned run. It was her second complete game of the weekend, and her third time pitching more than six innings.

JoJo McRae was a surprising standout from this game, going 2-for-2 with two RBIs and a run. Nordberg and Kufta contributed two more runs, Kufta’s coming on a single and Nordberg’s on a groundout to third base. Ellazar also played well, hitting 2-for-3 with a run.

The standouts

The majority of the standouts from this weekend are, again, from the team pitching staff. Denhart and Golden have developed into machines on the mound, with each pitching near complete games every time they hit the field. Despite a few hiccups here or there, both pitchers usually keep Maryland in contention game in and game out.

As for hitting, there wasn’t much to be thrilled about. Skylynne Ellazar played well in a few games, and it was encouraging to see freshman JoJo McRae play well early in her career, but aside from that, there wasn’t much else. Maryland is still hitting .221 as a team this season, with only Ellazar and Nordberg sporting averages above .300.

On deck

Maryland will enter its final non-conference tournament of the season next weekend, this time going to Hawaii to participate in the Hawaii Tournament. There, the Terps will face Tennessee twice, Cleveland State, North Dakota, and Hawaii. The tournament begins at 6 p.m. ET (1 p.m. local) on Friday.