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Maryland softball can’t stop Michigan State offense in 3-game sweep

The Spartans’ bats were too much to overcome for Terps pitchers this weekend.

julie wright maryland softball Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

It was an emotional weekend for Maryland softball and seniors Skylynne Ellazar, Destiney Henderson and Jacqui Pascual as this was the final series they’ll play in College Park. But pitching struggles continued and the Terps ended up getting swept by Michigan State.

Game 1: Michigan State 7, Maryland 4

Early mistakes put the Terps in an early hole that they never ended up climbing out of. The Spartans scored the first seven runs of the game in the first two innings, with the Terps eventually responding with three runs in the fifth and one more in the sixth.

Ryan Denhart was the starter, and what has been consistent with most of her previous starts was the case again, as she struggled a bit in the first few innings but settled in as the game progressed. Michigan State put up four runs in the first off an Ebonee Echols grand slam and three more off a Lea Foerster home run in the following inning. But Denhart figured things out from there, holding the Spartans scoreless for the final five innings.

Like Denhart, the Terps’ offense took a little while to get going as well, as Kristina Zalewski looked in control of the Maryland hitters through the first four innings. Facing a premature end to the game due to the NCAA mercy rule, Ellazar finally broke through with a three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth. Henderson snuck a single over the head of the third basemen in the bottom of the sixth to cut the deficit to three, but that was it scoring-wise for the Terps.

Game 2: Michigan State 6, Maryland 5 (9 innings)

Despite two late rallies from the Terps, Maryland dropped the second half of the Friday doubleheader by one. Michigan State put up three runs over the first seven innings before Maryland responded with three of its own in the bottom of the seventh. The Spartans added three more in the in the ninth, with Maryland coming up short and only scoring two in the following half inning.

Ellazar came up clutch again for the Terps with her timely hitting, this time going 2-for-4 with three RBIs and a triple. She kept the game alive for Maryland in the bottom of the seventh inning when she hit a three-run home run off Michigan State’s Bridgette Rainey. With another three-run deficit to make up in the ninth inning, the Terps had another rally going with the bases loaded and one out. Kassidy Cross singled through the left side to cut their lead to one, but a subsequent 15-minute rain delay let the Spartans get their feet back under them and they would go on close out the game.

“They’re fighters,” Julie Wright said of her team being able to put together late game rallies. “When they get all the way there and are locked in they’re great at fighting, great at attacking, and great at not giving up.”

It was Sydney Golden’s turn to face the Michigan State hitters in game two, and the junior put in one of her better performances of the season. She went eight innings, letting up 12 hits but keeping Maryland in the game by allowing only four runs. Denhart came in briefly for the top of the ninth inning, but was later subbed again for Golden, who finished the game.

Game 3: Michigan State 15, Maryland 12

Maryland was out-offensed in its final game of the regular season, as Michigan State won 15-12. Maryland scored nine runs through the first three innings compared to Michigan State’s five runs at that point. Maryland added three more in the fifth, but Michigan State scored 10 runs in three consecutive innings to put the game away.

The Maryland offense went all in for its final game in College Park, racking up season highs in runs with 12 and hits with 14. Production came from all over the place, as Cross, Brigette Nordberg, Bailey Boyd and Anna Kufta contributed a combined nine RBIs. Henderson also had a big game in her final home game, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs.

Julie Wright mixed and matched Denhart and Golden throughout this game, as Denhart started the game and pitched the first two innings with Golden taking over until the sixth, when Denhart returned to finish the game. Denhart ended up taking the loss, moving her to 10-19 to close out regular season play.

Three things to know

1. Michigan State was afraid of Skylynne Ellazar. Ellazar was dominant in the first two games of the series, but was a non-factor in the series’ final game. That’s because Michigan State walked her five times, once on a hit-by-pitch and four intentional walks.

“I hate it for her because it’s her senior day,” Wright said. “Legit, she probably would’ve gone 4-for-4 with four [home runs]. They were smart, but it just stinks.”

2. Maryland has now lost nine games in a row. Finishing up the regular season strong is usually a good indicator for how a team will fare in their postseason. Unfortunately, Maryland has been the opposite. Three consecutive series sweeps have snowballed into nine straight losses for Terps heading into the Big Ten tournament. Wright will have her work cut out for her in the next week to get her team prepped for the conference tournament.

3. But Maryland is still headed to the Big Ten tournament. The Terps didn’t help themselves this weekend, so they currently sit 10th in the standings. But they are nevertheless playoff bound for the first time in three years and the first time under Julie Wright.

On deck

Maryland will be off to Madison, Wisconsin, as it enters the Big Ten tournament. The bracket has yet to be released, but the Terps are either facing Ohio State, Illinois or Northwestern depending on how each of their games shake out tomorrow. The tournament’s first game will be held on Thursday at 11 a.m. ET.