Maryland softball opened up Big Ten play against defending conference tournament champion Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are currently ranked No. 20 in the nation and they showed why, as they swept the Terps in three games, although Maryland kept two contests close.
Friday evening: No. 20 Minnesota 6, Maryland 5
Senior Sydney Golden was cruising until she ran into some trouble in the sixth, where Minnesota scored four runs.
In the sixth, the senior was relieved by another senior, Sami Main. The senior came in with two inherited runners on base and walked the first batter she faced to load the bases. With runners on, Golden Gophers’ senior Maddie Houlihan blasted a grand slam to take a 6-4 lead.
Golden started in the circle in the first game of Big Ten conference play, pitching 5 ⅓ innings and picking up a season-high, seven strikeouts. However, the righty also surrendered four earned runs on eight hits. Main pitched 1 ⅔ innings in relief and gave up two runs on two hits.
The Terps got off to a great start, scoring three runs in the first inning. The first run of the game came off the bat of freshman Gracie Voulgaris, who ripped a triple down the right field line, plating junior Amanda Brashear. A few batters later, sophomore Sammie Stefan hit a double into right center, scoring Voulgaris and senior Bailey Boyd.
In the fifth inning, Voulgaris brought in another run on a single, giving Maryland a 4-2 lead. After giving up four runs to Minnesota in the sixth, the Terps looked to answer back. In the bottom of the frame, the Terps had the bases juiced with two outs. Sophomore JoJo McRae hit a single, scoring Stefan to cut the deficit to just 6-5, but that was the only run Maryland would score in the inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Terps threatened once again. With two outs, Boyd and Stefan hit back-to-back singles to give sophomore Taylor Wilson a shot, but the first baseman hit a grounder back to the pitcher to end the game.
Saturday afternoon: No. 20 Minnesota 19, Maryland 5 (5 Innings)
Maryland’s pitching staff had a tough time finding the zone in this one, issuing a combined 14 walks. The combination of these free passes and Minnesota’s explosive offense resulted in 19 runs.
Junior Kiana Carr started the game in the circle but was taken out in the first after giving up a grand slam. Carr later re-entered the game in the fourth inning and finished the day with 1 ⅔ innings pitched, allowing seven runs on seven hits while surrendering six walks.
The Terps also used redshirt freshman Victoria Galvan and freshman Amelia Jarecke in the circle. Galvan finished with two innings pitched and allowed five runs on two hits, while picking up two strikeouts. Jarecke tossed 1 ⅓ innings, allowing seven runs on three hits and six walks.
On the offensive side of things, the Terps got two runs off the bat of junior Anna Kufta, who cranked a homer over the left field wall in the third inning. Trailing 19-3 in the fifth inning, the Terps showed some fight with a two-run double from Boyd, scoring Voulgaris and Kufta.
Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough offensive firepower from the Terps to catch up to the large deficit, resulting in a blowout loss.
Sunday afternoon: No. 20 Minnesota 5, Maryland 3
It was a pitcher’s duel for most of the game, but both offenses came alive towards the end. The game was scoreless until the fifth inning, when Minnesota scored four runs.
Golden tossed all seven innings for the Terps, allowing three earned runs on 13 hits. For Minnesota, junior Amber Fiser had a perfect game going until it was broken up in the fifth. Fiser finished with seven innings pitched and allowed three runs.
The Terps were trailing 5-0 entering the sixth inning but put together a rally to plate three runs. With two outs and runners on first and second, Kufta ripped a bases-clearing triple. Voulgaris then brought in Kufta on a double to cut the deficit to 5-3.
In the seventh, Maryland was able to put one base runner on but they were unable to convert it into runs as their comeback came up short.
At the plate
With freshman second baseman Taylor Okada our all weekend, the Terps didn’t have the firepower they displayed earlier in the season. But despite being swept, Maryland’s offense had some bright spots. Kufta hit .333 this weekend with four RBIs and three runs scored. Voulgaris continued her impressive freshman season, going 5-for-10 with three RBIs and two runs scored. Unfortunately, these performances didn’t result in any wins, as the Terps often found themselves facing large deficits.
Maryland gave out far too many walks this weekend, allowing Minnesota to have extra baserunners and extra chances. The Terps issued a combined 20 walks through the three games, and it often resulted in plenty of runs for the Golden Gophers.
Maryland will continue Big Ten conference play, hosting Ohio State next weekend. The Buckeyes are currently 17-9 this season.