Down in Clemson, South Carolina, Maryland softball struggled through the Big 10/ACC Challenge, playing two games each against Clemson and Pittsburgh.
The team, under new head coach Mark Montgomery, is still developing, which was apparent in a brutal 21-2 loss to Clemson. The Terps returned for one win against Pitt on Sunday, but lost their other two games to exit the weekend with a 2-7 season record and hopes for improvement to reach their goal of being a competitive team in the Big 10.
Maryland loses first game to Clemson, 5-1
Although Maryland softball seemed to be finding success in the first innings against Clemson in its first game of the weekend, the Tigers ultimately found their rhythm and surpassed the Terps, winning 5-1 in a seven-inning game.
At the start of the contest, the Terps showed their ability to extend at-bat time and make it on base. Freshman pitcher Courtney Wyche started the Terps off, holding control defensively.
The Terps loaded the bases in the first inning with no outs due to the batting work from sophomore Regan Kerr, senior Amanda Brashear and senior Anna Kufta. Freshman Taylor Liguori brought Kerr home after hitting the ball straight to Clemson infielders, who then got two Terps out in a double play.
Maryland still enjoyed a 1-0 lead as a result of the work of the offense, which got down to work faster than they did last weekend.
Clemson got one hit in the first three innings, allowing the Terps to keep their lead. However, the fourth inning marked a turning point in the game after the Tigers got four hits and scored three runs.
Tigers junior Marissa Guimbarda hit a home run to center field, tying the game up. Some more offensive work by Clemson allowed two more hitters RBIs, leaving the Terps behind at 3-1 by the end of the fourth inning.
The Terps attempted to come back in the middle of the fourth inning by switching Wyche for freshman pitcher Trinity Schlotterbeck in the circle, though the offense couldn’t get it done.
Kufta stood out at bat during the fifth inning, extending at-bat time by fouling pitches as she did in the third. However, it wasn’t enough to keep the Terps from striking out.
Clemson loaded the bases in the fifth, but Schlotterbeck was able to make a catch and prevent a run from the Tigers. But another hit from Tiger JoJo Hyatt brought Clemson home again, bringing their lead to 4-1.
In the sixth inning, the Terps switched Schlotterbeck for sophomore pitcher Amelia Jarecke. The Tigers still increased their lead, though, with freshman Hannah Goodwin reaching on fielder’s choice for Clemson to bring the score to 5-1. The Terps failed to come back from the Tigers’ lead in the seventh inning, falling to Clemson despite an optimistic start.
Maryland drops second game of the weekend, 8-5, to Pittsburgh
In their second game of the weekend, the Terps saw some offensive excitement but still fell short in their first of two games against Pittsburgh.
The Panthers started the game strong, leading 1-0 in the first inning after some offensive work earned them a run — although three runners were left on base. Kerr stole second base, giving the Terps hope of a solid inning, but ended up disappointed after defensive work from Pittsburgh set them behind.
Both teams saw action during the second inning, with the Panthers getting three hits and scoring four runs, bringing their lead to 5-0. The Maryland staff switched pitchers with Jarecke replacing Carr in an effort to slow the Panthers’ roll, but Katlyn Pavlick homered to left center field, adding three runs for the Panthers.
However, the Terps came back.
After some at-bat work from sophomore Taylor Okada, sophomore Gracie Voulgaris and senior Amanda Brashear, Maryland was in perfect position to score. An RBI from Kerr scored the Terps’ first run of the game. Freshman Campbell Kline and Kufta contributed two more RBIs, adding a total of four runs to the Terps’ score in an action-packed inning.
Carr, staying in the circle for the third and fourth innings, held the fort down, not allowing the Panthers any hits for two entire innings.
Voulgaris came back for the Terps, hitting the first home run of the season and tying the score up in the third inning at 5-5.
But the level playing field didn’t last long, as the Panthers had three hits and scored two runs in the fifth inning, forcing the Terps to switched pitchers again — from Carr to Wyche after an RBI from Pittsburgh.
On the offensive end, the Terps left two on base in the fifth but couldn’t make it home.
One more run in the sixth inning secured the Panther’s 8-5 victory, with Maryland failing to come together offensively in the final two innings.
Maryland clobbered by Clemson in 21-2 loss
In a dramatic second face-off against the Clemson Tigers, the Terps took a beating early in the game, dooming them to a 21-2 loss in a five-inning mercy-rule finish.
Schlotterbeck started the Terps in the circle and allowed the Tigers to end the first inning with three runs after junior Marissa Guimbarda hit a three-run homer. The Terps got one RBI from Kufta, but failed to keep up to the Tigers’ pace offensively.
The second inning was nothing short of nightmarish for the Terps’ defense. The Tigers scored 14 runs on 11 hits during the inning. Twice, the Tigers loaded the bases before hitting homers, adding eight runs on the pair of grand slams. Junior Bailey Taylor got the first home run, followed by freshman Valerie Cagle.
In an effort to slow Clemson’s lead, the Terps’ coaching staff switched Schlotterbeck in the circle for Carr. Then Jarecke came in before Schlotterbeck returned once again.
To add to Maryland’s misfortune, when head coach Mark Montgomery came out to have a conference with Schlotterbeck upon her return, he was ejected from the game for visiting the same pitcher more than once in an inning. The Terps had to carry on for the rest of the game without Montgomery’s guidance.
The inning lasted 48 minutes and brought the Tigers’ lead to 17-0. The Terps were unable to get any hits in during the second and third innings.
Cagle came back in the third inning for Clemson to hit another home run, bringing two runners home. The Tigers added four runs to their score in the third inning.
Although Maryland got two hits in during the fourth, it only scored its first runs of the game in the fifth and final inning. Kufta and Liguori hit RBIs for the Terps, but it wasn’t enough to come back.
The game ended at 21-2 thanks to the mercy-rule.
Maryland earns first win of the weekend against Pittsburgh, 10-9
The Terps saw an early lead in their second game against the Panthers, in what would be their only win of the weekend.
In the first inning, Kufta and Okada made base hits. With the duo on base, Liguori hit the ball through a hole on the left side of the field, giving Okada time to make it home for the first run of the game. Kufta then stole home, starting the game with a two-point lead for Maryland.
Wyche began in the circle and allowed the Panthers to score an unearned run in the first inning.
Maryland added two points to its lead in the second inning, especially due to some offensive work by Okada. She hit an RBI to bring junior JoJo McRae home. Kerr scored the next run on a passed ball, unearned.
Senior Connor McGaffic for the Panthers hit a home run to start Pitt’s time in the second inning, kicking off an inning that made the Terps’ chances of winning seem low.
More offensive work from the Panthers brought them into the lead, scoring five runs in the inning and leading the game, 6-4.
The Terps fought back in the fourth inning with a two RBI hit from Okada. But Pittsburgh kept its lead with three runs bringing the score to 9-6.
The sixth inning was magic for the Terps. Voulgaris hit through to the right, giving Liguori and Kufta the chance to score runs. Voulgaris made it home herself, scoring on a throwing error by Pittsburgh to first base, which tied the game up, 9-9.
Schlotterbeck came into the circle for Wyche, where she pitched a shutout for the final three innings.
On a wild pitch, McRae scored her third run of the day, bringing Maryland into the lead at last with a final score of 10-9. It was the Terps’ first win of the weekend and second of the season.
Three things to know
1. Watch out for sophomore infielder Taylor Okada. During her freshman year, Okada led the team with a .426 batting average before missing the remainder of the season due to an injury. Making her way into a more dominant position, Okada had five at-bats in the Terps’ final game on Sunday. She went 4-for-5 and hit 3 RBIs in that game, securing Maryland’s first and only win of the weekend.
2. The Terps haven’t established a go-to pitcher. This was most evident in their second game against Clemson, in a horrible second inning for the Terps. Freshman Trinity Schlotterbeck had started, was switched out for senior Kiana Carr and then sophomore Amelia Jarecke, before coming back to finish the inning. The Terps didn’t stick with a single pitcher for an entire game at all this weekend.
3. There’s a long way to go. If coach Mark Montgomery hopes to achieve his goal of having a winning season with his new team, the Terps will need to work on establishing a team dynamic and fine-tuning their strategy. However, there are four more weekends of tournament meets before Big 10 games begin, so the fate of the team is not yet decided.